The Outdoor Poet: Len Anderson


We pull on our hiking boots,
crawl out of the tent
and watch the mist
rise from the meadow
to become something else.

After a night of floating
along the tops of the pines,
I am somehow able to walk
upright on my hind legs
like other primates,
like ordinary gods.
But nestled inside each miracle
is trouble, and the trouble
with sleep and death
is that we keep
starting over again
knowing nothing
on mornings with mist rising.

I build a fire, make
black tea and oats, see
three deer across the valley
and fall to envy
their peace. The eagle
swoops down from the cliff
and I long to see
with his eyes. These fellow beings
seem somehow the greater.

One hour to douse the fire and fill our packs,
another to reach the car. Soon
the blur of landscape passing. Soon
there are no greater beings.

— from Invented by the Night (Hummingbird Press, 2011)

Following the Ritual

I stoop and enter the hollow
of the burnt-out redwood.

I am this char,
this web of invisible spider, this gnat,
storm-fallen limb and fork
and redwood shoot rising from duff
looking for light.

I am that howl of a distant dog,
and echo lingering,
call of another dog now,
that creek summer-dry
covered in blackberry
and poison oak,
spider I now see.

I am white mold eating this tree,
tree living and dead.

I am again this redwood shoot
now finding the light,
I am this light,
yes, but I am this char,
by the light.

—from Invented by the Night (Hummingbird Press, 2011)


I walk in the forest
then sit on the redwood duff
and meditate. When I open my eyes,
I see several stones sitting
before me. One by one they
ask me their questions.

Do we have free will
or are we machines with no souls?
Is time a piece of eternity
or is eternity a kind of time?
How can we transcend
the unceasing pull of desire
and attain true freedom?

All I can offer them is my consolation
and my praise for the depth
of their inquiry.

But they’ll have none of it,
say they have all the consolation
they need, resting firmly against
God’s skin. Surely
I must have learned so much more
through walking, which must be,
they say, a way of talking with God
with my feet.

The Trees

I walk slowly among trees
waving gently
in the breeze. Soon
I can’t help it
and begin to wave
with them. They
are speaking to me
with their bodies
and I speak to them
in return. I don’t know
what either of us
is saying, but they
have been here
so much longer than I
and must know
what they’re doing.

They must be holy beings
and this wind and our waving
a kind of communion.
It stirs them and they
pass it along to us.

Maybe even to you.
Can you see them?
Do you begin to wave with us?
Do you understand?
It’s a kind of language.
A reminder. We
must have all been trees.

About The Author Len Anderson’s second collection of poems, Invented by the Night, was published by Hummingbird Press in November, 2011. He is a co-founder of Poetry Santa Cruz and serves as Secretary-Treasurer.

The Outdoor Poet is edited by Robert Sward, author of numerous books of poetry including, most recently, New and Selected Poems: 1957-2011 (Red Hen Press). He lives on the Westside with his wife, the artist Gloria Alford, and a poodle mix named Cosette. Participation in The Outdoor Poet is by invitation.

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