I watch a spider spin beneath the veranda eaves. With care, it weaves the foundation from which its web will spread. Unfazed by the dust that swirls around us and stains everything red, the spider continues. Two years ago, I swore I’d never return to this town at the arse-end-of-nowhere. Now, the dry wind blows that distant vow back in my face. I’m sitting on the veranda in the same rickety rocking chair where my mum nursed me. The woman has gone. The chair remains.
Strand upon strand, the spider’s web grows while I wait. So many layers that even if you manage to slip through one, you’re still trapped fast. I wonder if the spider considers its prey, or the turmoil it leaves behind.
The web covers the entire corner of the veranda in silver now, and the spider has retreated from sight. In my pocket I can feel my sister’s letter crumpled and balled. There’s no need to reread, I know each word from the long bus ride here.
A dragonfly hovers. First near my knee, then higher. Wings drone like radio static as it investigates the web in the eaves. The late afternoon sun makes rainbows dance along its wings, and then it is caught. The web shakes with its struggles, but the spider has cast its net well. With each desperate lurch the dragonfly becomes further trapped, loses a little more fight. Soon, the rainbow disappears and the dragonfly surrenders to its fate. The spider appears and I watch it creep forward, certain that no one will intervene.
Out on the red dirt road, a rusty pickup slows. It pulls into the drive, and I can hear the tappets screaming for oil. My sister’s ginger hair fills the cab, visible even through the scum smearing the windscreen. I drag my knife from its sheath. It isn’t until they reach the veranda that my stepdad finally sees me. He drops my sister’s hand.
First published at Flash Fiction Magazine , December 2019
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
“Not everyone will like you,” she said.
“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 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.
One month from now,
a dull ache
is all you’ll be
Six months on
if I hear your name,
I might pause
to remember your face.
Once a year has passed
if I see you on the street,
more likely in a club,
I may smile or give a nod.
But tonight, right now,
a thousand men with knives
couldn’t cause the pain
She stares at the t-shirt draped over her chair. A replica Eames deserves better than Metallica. Of all the things for him to leave behind!
Clasped like Excalibur, a knife thrusts up from a toilet, Metal up your ass written beneath. Who would think of something like that? Who would print it? Worse still, who would wear it? She knows the answer to the last, having argued with him before countless dinner parties, Sunday barbecues, visits from her mother.
She swats at the shirt as she would a spider, gets slapped in the face by Armani as it falls. Now it lurks on the floor, one more dead thing in a week of dead things, until her kick sends it skidding under
their her bed.
Hours later she listens to it whisper as sleep refuses her haven. If she lies just so her mind can ignore it, until a stray breeze blows a trace to her nose. She climbs from bed to hunt naked in the fragmented moonlight. The shirt is a cool breath on feverish skin, and she surrenders to heavy metal dreams.
One drunken night, he lay on the coach road
and she lay beside him. He pictured a truck
descending–wobbling around corners,
gaining momentum. They spoke about crushes,
first kisses. He told her of an older woman
who’d stolen a thing he couldn’t replace.
He tried to describe the weight of lost things.
She listened until he stopped,
until I stopped
hiding behind he. I felt small,
watching the cosmos churn
while I lay on the coach road
one summer night,
speaking of big things
first published at Algebra of Owls, November 2016
Republished for dVerse poetics – Poems That Could Save Your Life – this friendship saved mine.
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.
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.
to silence voices,
no half-arsed prancing
with brand label beers.
A solemn determination
to drink until closing
or passing out—
whichever comes first.
Seeking the moment
when you forget
how he touched you/
how she made you/
how they called you liar.
Wind, blow –
lift me high, don’t
far, above sand
take me, let’s chase
– Ryan Stone
Over the mountains
and down to the sea,
you must come now
if you hope to break free.
No time to mourn
for Autumn’s red bowers;
the light we once made,
now darkness devours.
I can play you
the rhymes of the kingdom,
I can sing you
the songs that you know;
but we must take wing
from this darkened halo –
we must take wing
for a devil wind blows.
Break from your prison
of urban malaise;
run to the ocean,
fly from your home.
I can’t promise you
that we’ll make it –
but take my hand
and I’ll never let go.
– Ryan Stone