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

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Dull Roar

One month from now,
a dull ache
is all you’ll be
to me.

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
you have.

Ryan Stone

Bonnie & Clyde

On a Monday I met her, but should have known better-
a moon day bodes ill for new friends.
Lunar sea tides with light and dark sides
make Monday trysts wane to weak ends.

Aphelion eyes, dark hair and toned thighs
presaged a blue moon ascending.
With a wink and a gun, she blocked out the sun
in total eclipse, never-ending.

Said, taking my hand: you’ve the look of a man
who’d rather not sleep ’til he’s dead.
I refuse to work harder or pay for my Prada,
let’s dance with the Devil instead.

We ran for a time on a dream and a dime,
both stolen and hard to sustain.
At the trail’s grim end, a posse of men
machine-gunned love’s final refrain.

– Ryan Stone

First published at Poetry Nook, May 2017.

The T-Shirt

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.

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

The Weight

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
and nothing.

Ryan Stone

first published at Algebra of Owls, November 2016

Republished for dVerse poetics – Poems That Could Save Your Life – this friendship saved mine.

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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

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

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Days

Sometimes she’s wildfire, burning through the night;
some days she’s a winter storm, ice and fury unleashed.

Sometimes she’s a shadow, neither fully here or really there;
some days she’s untamable, wild as rolling seas.

Sometimes I hold her close, as the world starts coming undone;
some days we fit together and I feel that I belong.

Ryan Stone

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