Stand To!

A silent witness crests the hill
to place a kiss on coves
where bloody rain once fell.

The sob and clubbing fractured now –
hearts beat on distant shores

where brothers wait with shaking hands
to charge into the dawn.

Across the Sea of Helle they came,
from many different ports; to lay down cold
on foreign stone, enlisted on some other front.

Flags hang low and I am borne
by a bugle’s mournful calling,

as first light joins eternal flame
“stand to!” cleaves the morning.

Ryan Stone

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Breaking Point

Pa, I see you in your shed–
unaware of dusk settling
over your garden, painting
your pink crabapple blossoms
grey. I see you bend, to squint
at some small imperfection
marring the wooden soldier
you’ve spent the whole day carving,
hands slow-dancing to a tune
no-one else can hear. Later
Ma will shake her head, dismiss
your need for perfect contours
and seamless joins as foolish,
not understanding a man,
a soldier or a husband
is only ever as strong
as his weakest part.

Ryan Stone

Souldier

The Harley was midnight polished chrome,
three years of saving — a gift to myself
in the spring of seventeen.

I donned leathers as my birthday broke,
left the house that was not home
and rode out into morning. Rode

until I landed, beneath the steely gaze
of a drill sergeant who forged men
from boys of seventeen.

He shaved away my dreadlocks,
found a fractured soul beneath,
broke it down
then built it up,
stronger,
more complete.

Ryan Stone

First published by Silver Birch Press, February 2017

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Busker

He spits into the busker’s case,
laughing with his mates.
Get a job, old man,’ he taunts.
The busker doesn’t slow.
‘You deaf?’ he asks, to no response;
losing interest, saunters off.
Not deaf, the busker strums his tune,
his mind on days long gone;
a foreign shore, machine-gun fire,
brothers stolen
by crimson waves.

Ryan Stone

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Reveille ~ a duet

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Hatred consumes
It billows, it fumes
Filling space with vile thoughts
Bred from desire to destroy
Brewed from a heartless ploy
To conquer what is not yours
From tribal gatherings
To spaceship armies
In the vastness of times embrace
Fists throwing rocks
To detonators set to digital clocks
Killing is now easier when miles apart
Regardless, what color of flesh
Hate, Reflected
Always looks the same
When war paint applied to camouflage

While you were flying high
I watched a brother die
Crying for a son
He’ll never know
Console zombies
on your couches
Squander precious days
Pretend that war’s a game
And you’re the kind of hero
Who could dive
Into a hard man’s eyes,
Unflinching,
Take a life

A parade down the highway
Bridges lined with ribbons and flowers
Signs that say Thank You and God Bless
A welling tear as the families car appears
The saddest sedan rolling the asphalt
6 o’clock news, covering the story
Of a soldier, home to deaths glory
Passing like the wind
Onlookers wave with forced grins
A tragedy, this war
That brings no joy
A 21 gun salute
Fades to a commercial break

My urban battlefield
Of rain-strafed streets
Is stained a dismal shade
of homeless
Where silent tears meet
Homecoming cheers
And thunderclaps
Cause panic
Abandoned behind
Friendly lines
My platoon fall one by one
Weeping toy soldiers
Who realize
Wars are never won

Written by Ax and Stone
(Photo credit: google images, Layout: Ax)

We send our brave servicewomen and men out into darkness to protect our families and our way of life and when they return, having stared too long into the abyss, we fail to care for them as they have cared for us. In a time when we lose more of these heroic souls on home soil by their own hand than in combat, the shame is ours to bear.

I’d like to thank the incredibly talented Ax from Perso~in~Poesia for this opportunity to meld our two different writing styles into a poem that is very close to my heart. I’ve followed and enjoyed his passionate words for a long time now and it was truly an honour to write with him. As I’ve said before, I’m a nightmare to write with, but Ax made the experience most enjoyable. If you haven’t had the pleasure of reading him yet, please head over to Perso~in~Poesia and brace yourself for one exhilarating ride.