Coal Town

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.

Ryan Stone

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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Drought Town

This is the summer of red dust. Everything
sucked dry—hollow as cicada husks, wedged
under eaves and porch stairs—waiting
for a wind change. On the road out of town,
empty grain silos loom, perched like headstones
over wheat-field graves. Harvesters sag, tyres
cracked like the asphalt. Rotting carcasses
litter riverless beds—tongues swollen,
flyblown, unslaked. First, a wheeze,
then my pickup spews steam. It dies in a ditch
under a burnt-orange sun. Tiger snake chunks
graffiti the hood’s underside, one blind eye bulging
from the torn head. It must have sought shade
or wiper water—sliding up from the parched earth
miles back. Now it’s just one more dead thing
in a land of dead things. This is the summer
of red dust. It swirls and the road ahead blurs.

– Ryan Stone

first published by Eunoia Review

Adrift

The last leaves are golden,
most have already flown. Branches
hang bare beneath ashen skies.
Not so different from when you climbed,
hand over slow hand, waging a war
inside your young mind. One leaf
breaks free, hangs on a moment,
before leaping into the maelstrom.
I imagine a short fall,
sharp jerk and silence;
but it’s only a leaf and spirals away,
no note to mark its passing.

– Ryan Stone

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In Fallow Fields

In my father’s field
my fledgling hopes are neatly hedged,
sown in the soil of silent forebears.

Beside a bourne, in chalk and flint,
I plant my dreams deep.

The rasping of his shovel has slowed
this season. Some furrows lie shallow,
others run deeper.

Through rustic panes I watch him bend,
straining against the pull of years
to pluck joy from the loam.

A moment’s pause to contemplate
a lone invader into precise ranks,
before his shovel resumes its dirge.

Discarding my pen, I fall in beside–
a forgotten page, unplowed.

Ryan Stone

First published on The Houseboat in August, 2015

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At a Dog Fight

The sweating men form a ring,
aroused by proximity to death.
Snatched from backyards as children slept,
two dogs now circle and snarl.
Flies feast on blood and one dog goes down,
back legs splayed, front torn and flailing.
Defeat is a whimper – sharp teeth at the throat –
from which men turn and tally bets.
I step from my father’s shadow
to stroke the blood-matted fur
of the dog left discarded on straw.
I know how it feels to be flayed.

Ryan Stone

First published by Algebra of Owls

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The Sculptor

On Sunset Strip the lights have dimmed
And silent now their siren’s call.
A fading starlet’s eyes are brimmed
With tears–one more forgotten thrall
Who keeps her locks of platinum trimmed,
Awaits her call to glory,
Lays bare her soul to cheat decay
And rewrite her life’s story.
He sculpts her in immortal clay,
In meadows cold and hoary;
Holds time’s determined march at bay
From fields of faded glory.

Ryan Stone

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