Poem: I Am the Monarch Who Finds His Way

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by Ryan Van Lenning

I dreamt I was a dolphin
dying on the shore
stomach swollen with plastic

I am that dolphin

I am the bee with no home
whose family rests
like a lifeless carpet on the ground

I’m the 6th Great Extinction
the missing migratory path
the squandered topsoil
the oil in the water
the last of the halibut
the pine tree ravaged by beetles
the mountain gorilla saying goodbye
the Gulf dead zone
the diminishing snowpack
the coral reef bleached by acid in warming seas
the child with asthma poisoned by air
the most basic need

I am the memory of Roughie the tree frog
who kids will never see
the last of his kind

I am the California coast redwood
most of my kin cut down

But my identities conflict:

I am also the lizard that regrows its tail
the comeback of the grey whale
the monarch who finds his way
the orangutan that lives another day

I am the seeds planted in prayer
and fist of hope in the air
for the resurrection of interconnection
and protection

I’m the ears to hear
the earth’s sounds
perennial roots in the ground

I am Sierra yellow-legged frog
returning against all odds

I am the remediating mushroom
and the artichoke bloom

I am the vacant lot turned to food
the attitude of gratitude

I am the salmon swimming unimpeded
up and down stream
tattooed lines of the earth’s dream

When I can’t remember who I am:

I see the dandelion
busting through the concrete
and know where wisdom lives



Ryan Van Lenning
is a writer, poet, and aspiring ecotherapist and wilderness guide living in Oakland, CA. He is currently working on a book called Vulnerable Mountain Heart. He looks for hidden trails in the East Bay hills. This morning he saw a baby hummingbird nested on an aluminum fence.

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