He Who Fights Monsters

I won’t survive this dark night’s lunar sea.
Waves crash against the fortress of my mind.
An endless ebb and flow of misery
Has seeped into the Labyrinth we designed.

No atlas, compass, sextant can give aid
In evil vaults where stars are loath to shine.
My tears and screams, once birthed, so quickly fade—
To drown with hope beyond the high-tide line.

I’ve raced before a tempest wind so long,
My hull is breached beyond my skill to caulk.
No dawn for me, I chase a siren’s song
To straits so dire, all but monsters balk.

On feathered wings of wax at last I see—
There’s no abyss except the one in me.

Ryan Stone

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Sleep

along quicksilver trails
thru the night
we tripped,

past the wall,
into the sky—

swallowed by infinity

Ryan Stone

A Capacity for Violence

My shot missed. Dust rose in a miniature mushroom cloud.

Donny drew back his slingshot and held a rock steady. The chicken stood still. Donny released. His rock struck the chook’s head and sent it scrabbling into the red dirt of my yard.

I watched as it rose and tried to escape. The piece of rusted fencing wire Donny had wound round its leg and secured to a star picket stopped it from getting far. I wiped my hand across my forehead. Sweat and dust ran into my eyes. I blinked it away and loaded my slingshot. I missed again.

“You’re fuckin’ useless,” Donny said.

A metal bar lay on the ground nearby, left over from the shed Dad had started to build. Another project that got too hard for him and remained unfinished. The shed leaned to one side and barely stayed upright when the winds howled.

I picked up the bar and advanced on the chook. “Take this, you little faggot,” I said, and swung hard. The chook somersaulted through the air, then sprawled on the ground. Still twisted in wire, its leg pointed like a finger of accusation. I wiped my eyes, then raised the bar for another blow.

“Stop,” my mother said, emerging from behind the half-finished shed. She didn’t yell—she rarely did—but her presence was enough to make me lower the bar, and my eyes.

“Go home, Donny.”

Mother walked to the chicken, still flopping around on the end of the wire. With a quick motion of her hands—a pull and jerk—she ended its suffering. She turned and looked me in the eyes. “Untie it. Bring it into the shed.” Without another word, she walked away.

I entered the shed with the limp, bloody bird, and lay it on the bench my mother indicated.

“Sit down.”

I didn’t look at her.

“I said sit.”

“I can’t.”

She tilted her head to the side. “Turn around.”

I did as she asked.

“Now drop your strides.”

Face burning, I complied. Mother looked at my bare arse, crisscrossed with red welts the same width as Dad’s belt. She placed her hands on my shoulders and turned me around to face her.

“Please don’t tell Dad about the chook.”

“The true measure of a man isn’t his capacity for violence, but his ability to contain it. Do you understand?”

I nodded.

She handed me a hatchet.

“Cut off its head and pluck it. Then bring it in for dinner.”

Ryan Stone

Runner-up in Grindstone Literary Flash Fiction 1000, July 2018

At 3 a.m.

How good is this?!
More magic from my good friend Sarah.
Enjoy!

Sarah Russell Poetry

This poem is a departure for me. I found myself channeling Hemingway after reading for the third or fourth time A Moveable Feast — perhaps the best and least known guidebook for Paris. My thanks to Scot at Rusty Truck for publishing it this week.

At 3 a.m.
after one more day
without words, Paris
takes you in like a whore,
not surprised you’re back
for another fuck in the dark.
November. Brittle rain
scrapes the bone.
You walk the sheen of cobbles
to the Seine, where bodies,
freshly guillotined, once floated,
heads left behind in baskets,
past the great cathedral, gargoyled,
buttressed, to the boîte
on St. Louis where absinthe
and jazz make love, and a girl
comes to rub against you
like she knows your name.

– Sarah Russell
first published in Rusty Truck
for Poets United Poetry Pantry
Photo by Nicolas Vigier

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First Husband

This wonderful poem from my talented friend, Sarah Russell, stopped me in my tracks just now. I hope you’ll enjoy it as much as I do. Please direct any likes or comments to Sarah on her site.

Sarah Russell Poetry

“Poetry is . . . emotion recollected in tranquility.”
― William Wordsworth

I found his obit on Google,
hadn’t seen him, barely thought
of him in forty years
since the day he loaded his car
with half of everything – blankets, pillows,
dishes, albums (we fought over
who’d get “The Graduate” poster of Hoffman
and Anne Bancroft’s leg) – and drove off
to I-didn’t-care-where.

Once, 20 years later I learned where he was
from his buddy John and called.
He still taught drama and directed
summer stock in a small midwestern town.
We laughed together, comfortable,
finally, in our separate skins.

Now an obit with pictures and two columns
in the paper. A well-loved, prominent citizen,
it read, wife, three kids, grandkids. He wrote
a children’s book and “left the town
with memories of comedy and drama
that enriched our lives.”

Our marriage wasn’t mentioned. No need,
I suppose –…

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On Kebler Pass

A beautiful new poem from my talented friend, Sarah Russell.

Sarah Russell Poetry

dust the ferns with my ashes —
there, among the aspen
trembling gold against the sky.
Let them settle, sighing,
on the still warm earth of autumn
where the next peak calls your name.

Snow will come. The wind will show me
paths the doe and vixen know. The moon
will call me with her crescent mouth
and share stories of the embered stars.

– Sarah Russell
First published in Poppy Road Review
for Poets United Poetry Pantry
Photo Source

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Migrating Geese

Another wonderful poem from my talented friend, Sarah Russell. Please leave any likes and comments on Sarah’s blog, rather than here – I know how much they’ll be appreciated.

Sarah Russell Poetry

Keening in a bruised sky,
ragged chevrons
follow the coastline south –
imperfect V’s, left wanting
on one side or the other –
testament, perhaps, to those taken
by foxes, hunger, double barrels,
their skeins unraveling autumn.

– Sarah Russell

First published in The Houseboat
Republished in Poems in the Waiting Room
Photo:  Sunsetphotosgallery.com

Posted for dVerse Open Link

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Flotilla

Sarah Russell Poetry

I am so proud to know Steve Deutsch.  He is part of my poetry workshop group and for the second month in a row, one of his poems, this time “Flotilla,” was chosen by Goodreads from more than 300 entries as a finalist in their monthly contest.  To read the poems in the contest, click here.  And if you agree, as I do, that Steve’s poem is outstanding, please vote.

You left behind.
one half a jelly donut,
stale as last Wednesday;
some clothing, moth-eaten,
mildewed; two shoes,
one black, one brown,
with newsprint for the soles.
You left behind a paper sack
of winter warmth, and poetry
by Whitman, Poe and Crane,
well-fingered and browned in age.

You walked into the river
and left behind four dollars
and eighteen cents, which I
have spent on coffee
and a banana nut muffin,
that crumbled in its freshness.

Your poetry…

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