Adrift

The last leaves are golden,
most have already flown. Branches
hang bare beneath ashen skies.
Not so different from when you climbed,
hand over slow hand, waging a war
inside your young mind. One leaf
breaks free, hangs on a moment,
before leaping into the maelstrom.
I imagine a short fall,
sharp jerk and silence;
but it’s only a leaf and spirals away,
no note to mark its passing.

– Ryan Stone

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I’ll not tread lightly

remember school days and how we would play
like there was no tomorrow?
now the castles we made
are the price we must pay
or flounder in oceans of sorrow

roaming wild and free, building houses in trees
as worlds waltzed to discordant tunes
like a zephyr through grass,
gilded summer days passed;
left us flayed under Cheshire moons

wooden sword fights and valiant knights;
pirates, the Pan and his Bell,
faded from dreams,
rowed ungentle streams,
to where the real monsters dwell

I’ve climbed faraway trees, seen fair Honah-Lee,
never never thought I’d grow old
now the pied piper calls —
before the last curtain falls,
leafless, I’ll trip into the wold.

Ryan Stone

First published by Wolf Publishing June, 2015

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Mother’s Hands

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Advertisement for Myers Gloves, by Margaret Watkins (Canada), 1920s.

Mother’s Hands

Strong enough to lift me
each time I couldn’t rise. Soft
as cotton wool, washing
dirt from scrapes and tears
from eyes. Firm enough
to model clay
and boys, to bowls
and men, yet fine
when stroking ivory keys–
Für Elise and Clair de Lune.
They’d curl through each long evening
around her only vice, in a holder
like Audrey’s, that never left her side.
I’m thinking of her hands now–
strong and wild and free; missing
her hands now, as I watch ashes
blow to sea.

Ryan Stone

Written for the 20 poem challenge at Ekphrastic, September 2016.

First published at Ekphrastic, September 2016

Paradigm Shift

I’m not an iceblock. I’m not a teardrop,
mooching around your Long Island Iced Tea.
I’m not chasing dreams, dreaming of Jeannie;
I’m not slowing for one more whistle stop.
I’ve never bridged sighs, I don’t island hop;
I’ve not tasted the free airs of Heaney,
nor held a heart that, like some Houdini,
didn’t vanish with a barbaric yawp.
I have set no flame within love’s hearth
that didn’t burn that shantytown down.
At night, I am king; come morning, uncrowned-
I walk in as Luke, am forced out as Darth.
Rivers are rivers, regardless of flow:
O, stone, be not so; O, stone, be not so.

Ryan Stone

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Coal Town

Birds don’t stop in this town.
I see them fly past, black peppering
blue, going someplace. I’ve given up
dreaming wings. This town
will know my bones. Condoms
sell well in Joe’s corner store – boredom breeds
but breeding’s a trap, a twitch in the smile
of those steel-eyed shrews
who linger late after church.
I walked half a day, out past the salt flats,
after they closed the movie house down. Smoked
the joint she’d brought back from college
when she returned to bury my dad.
I remember how pale her fingers lay
across my father’s hands –
coal miner’s hands, tarred like his lungs;
like this town.

Ryan Stone

First published in Eunoia Review, July 2016.

Winner of the Goodreads Monthly Poetry Contest, August 2016.

First Place in Poetry Nook contest 101, November 2016.

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He Who Fights Monsters

I won’t survive this dark night’s lunacy.
Waves smash against the fortress of my mind
with an endless ebb and flow of misery—
I’m drowning in a Labyrinth I designed.

No compass, satnav, Valium can save
me here, where even stars are scared to shine.
To a shifting siren’s song I am enslaved,
drawn down beyond the high-tide line.

Battered by winds strong as Minotaurs
my hull is breached beyond my skill to caulk.
I drift on wings of wax, then on all fours
crash land where none but monsters walk.

Light glints on broken glass, at last I see!
There’s no abyss but this one in me.

first published at Poetry Nook, September 2019

Daybreak

“Not everyone will like you,” she said.

“Why not?”

“That’s the way of things. Never show them it hurts.”

I looked at the iron gate before me and thought of spears. A phalanx of invisible soldiers clutching towering spears.

“When can I return?” I said.

“You cannot.”

“Never?”

“You must always look forward. Behind lies naught but ashes and dust.”

“Once I step through, you’ll be behind.”

She said nothing.

“I’ll miss you,” I said.

“As I will you.”

“You could come with me.”

She smiled. “The price of your freedom was more than I have.”

I looked from her face to the man in the shadows. A glint of gold flickered as he opened his mouth. “Time to go.”

“Ashes and dust,” said my mother, and shoved me into the light.

Ryan Stone