Tōrō Nagashi

Your flame flickers briefly—
a parting whisper.
Some trick of the river
mimics your laughter.

We stand apart at sunset,
lost in natsukashii,
come together in darkness,
to watch the dead pass on.

Your light has fallen now
to shadow
beneath the bridge.

Ryan Stone

First published on Napalm and Novocain, January 2016

Published at Poetry Nook, October 2018, Nominated for 2018 Pushcart Prize

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Unburied Hatchet

Until I saw those wasted hands,
brittle as chalk, I hadn’t thought
how fast the years make ghosts.

I heard them once called brawler’s paws.
For me, they were always more:
cobras, poised to strike.

But his brawling days are gone now;
I could kill him with a pillow,
if I cared enough to try.

Thin sheets press tightly to a bed
more empty than full, his body broken
like the promises of childhood.

Haunted eyes betray last thoughts
of a dim path, spiralling down.
He hopes to make amends.

“Forgiven?” he croaks,
barely there, as always,
and I’m wishing that I wasn’t.

With the last rays of day as witness,
I turn my back with purpose
and hear the silence roar.

In a late-night bar I catch my reflection
swimming in a glass of bourbon;
but I’m staring at a ghost.

Ryan Stone

Click here for audio

First published in Writers’ Forum Magazine issue 163, April 2015 – first place

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The Journey Home

She tells me her pain is a squall,
sudden and vicious, like a flash

storm whipping in from Bass Strait
to batter King Island.
Do you remember our Island, Garth?

Her doctors build shelters; nurses
batten hatches, but this tempest

won’t blow over. She says her pain is a vulture now,
circling the desert on threadbare wings.
A glass of water if you please, Garth?

With beak and claw, it slashes and rips
nerve endings, drinks color from her eyes.

The pain is no longer squall or vulture,
she whispers, but a flutter of pages.
One last story before bed, dear Garth?

I don’t tell her that I’m her grandson—
not her brother Garth, stolen by war.

She’s a thin sheet stretched over an empty
bed; a gull’s cry on the wind.

– Ryan Stone

first published by Eunoia Review, June 2019

Old Photograph

In the photo I keep in my wallet
you’re smiling. No hint of ghosts
in the glint of your eye.

You’re sitting on a riverbank
weaving a daisy chain
I wore until it crumbled–

linking flower to flower
with the unblemished certainty
that beauty and vows are forever.

Ryan Stone

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The Sculptor

On Sunset Strip the lights have dimmed
And silent now their siren’s call.
A fading starlet’s eyes are brimmed
With tears–one more forgotten thrall
Who keeps her locks of platinum trimmed,
Awaits her call to glory,
Lays bare her soul to cheat decay
And rewrite her life’s story.
He sculpts her in immortal clay,
In meadows cold and hoary;
Holds time’s determined march at bay
From fields of faded glory.

Ryan Stone

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Irish Fire

My grandmother called it
Irish fire, said it raged
through my father
hotter than Beli Mawr’s bum.
She was long dead
when it finally flared
fiercer than he could contain.
The embers of his eyes
scorched childhood’s
last leaves to ash,
left them smoldering.

Ryan Stone

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