Pulling Back the Sheet

It started as a scribble
in my yearbook
and ended
with an apology,
of sorts:
I wish I’d been more,
held your hand
when it mattered

and even
when it didn’t.

Ink lasts longer
than schoolyard buds,
wilted
before their bloom.
Notes we wrote
lend breath
to ghosts,

long after
pens fall still.

In this cold place
I see your face
as it was behind the gym;
where your lips
once tasted

of blackberries
and sunshine.

Ryan Stone

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Wedding Poem

It’s a fleeting moment–
a red sky at twilight,
rushing to the long night;
the last russet leaf
clinging to bough
as autumn inhales,

breathes out.

You know this, you’ve felt it
in the grey light of dawn,
in that pause
between waking and finding.
You’ve heard it whisper
through the dry grass
of summer–a promise
tossed on the wind.

Yesterday’s smoke
blows over fields,
tomorrow hides
inside dreams.
This hand in your hand
is the one, the only
true kingdom

under the sun.

Ryan Stone

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I’ll not tread lightly

remember school days and how we would play
like there was no tomorrow?
now the castles we made
are the price we must pay
or flounder in oceans of sorrow

roaming wild and free, building houses in trees
as worlds waltzed to discordant tunes
like a zephyr through grass,
gilded summer days passed;
left us flayed under Cheshire moons

wooden sword fights and valiant knights;
pirates, the Pan and his Bell,
faded from dreams,
rowed ungentle streams,
to where the real monsters dwell

I’ve climbed faraway trees, seen fair Honah-Lee,
never never thought I’d grow old
now the pied piper calls —
before the last curtain falls,
leafless, I’ll trip into the wold.

Ryan Stone

First published by Wolf Publishing June, 2015

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The Wind Whispers, The Wind Sighs

– after Longfellow

The wind whispers, the wind sighs,
the dawn light brightens, a magpie cries;
amongst the gum trees tall and green
a girl becomes a faerie queen.
And the wind whispers, the wind sighs.

Morning settles beneath silk skies,
her reign flits by like dragonflies;
deep shadows dress the naked hill
in dusk, as faerie wings fall still.
And the wind whispers, the wind sighs.

Night throws a cloak; a barn owl cries,
another answers, stars blink like eyes.
The queen is gone, won’t come again;
these woods forever will remain.
And the wind whispers, the wind sighs.

– Ryan Stone

first published at Poetry Nook, May 2020

Mother’s Hands

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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

Rhyme of the Kingdom

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 offer no promise
that we’ll make it –
but take my hand
and I’ll never let go.

Ryan Stone

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The Long Road

I drink all day
and then strike out
along that winding road,
where shadows flit
by leafy bough
and twilight waits
for no-one;

where failing light
births fickle fiends
who writhe and tempt
the absent mind.
In deepen wood
where mildew clings
to night’s cool breath,
a parting kiss

for seasons
long since flown.

Ryan Stone

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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

Click here for audio

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

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He Who Fights Monsters

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