first published at Poetry Nook, September 2019
first published at Poetry Nook, September 2019
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, hoping it would make it. But the piece of rusted fencing wire Donny had wound round its leg and secured to a star picket stopped it from getting far. Sweltering in the afternoon heat, I wiped my hand across my forehead. Sweat and dust to 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. “I’m not useless,” 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.
I didn’t look at her.
“I said sit.”
She tilted her head to the side. “Turn around.”
I did as she asked.
“Now drop your strides.”
Face burning, I complied, knowing my bare arse was crisscrossed with red welts the same width as Dad’s belt. She placed her hands on my shoulders and turned me back 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?”
She handed me a hatchet.
“Cut off its head and pluck it. Then bring it in for dinner.”
Runner up Grindstone Literary Flash Fiction 1000, June 2018
Published at Flash Boulevard, September 2019
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
“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.
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
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.
first published at Poetry Nook, 1st place Week 185
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.
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