“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.”


“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

The Walk

I wake a full hour early
for the rare gift
of a walk in the woods
with my father.

He is a silent giant
among misty ghost gums.
I tell him, Watch!
See how fast I can run.

He doesn’t yell when I trip
and fall, but lifts me
with unfamiliar,
calloused hands.

At the end of the trail
I study my grazes—jagged
and bloody. He tells me
he’s leaving my mum.

On the walk home
I gaze at the gum trees
and fragmented clouds, thinking
they should look different somehow.

Ryan Stone

first published at Poetry Nook, 1st place Week 185

Mother’s Hands

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

Christmas Bells on Ash Wednesday


Birthed in a blood-orange haze,
a torture of sound batters my ears; 
the front-running wind – that howling dervish,
whipped into a firestorm frenzy.


Potato-and-earth invades our tub, drifting down
from wet sacks above.  A fort, Mum said,
before she left.  She’s thrice returned, 
refilling her bucket to battle the Embers. 
I hold my wooden sword close
in case they come for my brothers.


As I wander the rubble, a stone chimney topples; 
my boots are cloaked with death.  By one cracked toe,
life pushes through: a red-orange hood, 
tipped with gold. Christmas Bells ring 
in my playground of ash.

Ryan Stone


Inspiration: I was just a boy when the Ash Wednesday bushfires tore through the hills of my childhood, destroying everything in their path. On a blistering hot summer day during one of the worst droughts in Australia’s history, fierce winds stripped about 50 thousand tonnes of topsoil from Victoria’s Mallee and created a huge dust cloud that blanketed the sky, plunging everything into darkness. The wind’s roar and eerie glow of the sun are forever etched in my memory.

It was a very strong sensory experience. In particular, I have always been struck by the similarities between the colours of destruction and those of rebirth. The sun’s blood-orange, bushfire haze and the colours of the Christmas Bell flower, with their red, orange and yellow hoods that herald rebirth and renewal are both similar and worlds apart.

Into the Wind

Night reigns in this abyss.
No light. All is dark, all dead.
I sit and mourn for moments
lost. The skull and bones
lie crossed.

I board a ship and sail away –
bound for freedom; to fly
the eagle’s byways, soar
the wind’s roar, sleep the steely night
safe from Winter’s hoar.

A mother cries, a baby dies;
I ride skies on halcyon wings,
feathered wings of days now passed.
On the wind, I glide; blasting by,
fading fast.

Ryan Stone