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ryan’s page

Ryan’s sketch of Kurt Cobain is also his self-portrait.

Ryan’s sketch of Kurt Cobain is also his self-portrait.

Ryan killed himself in his first year at Virginia Tech, October 26, 2002. The poems were written following his death. This page is dedicated to his memory.

Notes on publication

This series of books follows a chronology that’s belied by their publication dates. The core poems of the series, Southern Son and Love in Winter—Missing Ryan were written in 2002-2004 following his death and rewritten innumerable times, set aside then picked up again for a decade. The poems in Dogs and Disturbance and Not to Touch followed. Thus the poems included in Southern Son were the last to be published. Love in Winter—Missing Ryan will be published in 2019.

After Ryan’s death, a pledge was made to tell his story, in hope that it could be a memorial, that a life cut entirely too short would be remembered. Southern Son and Love in Winter are three-quarters of that memorial, with the last quarter of the poems still not finished. Joy at Love will complete the series.

It is one thing to write poems under the mad grip of grief, but excising anything less than the truth, straining to touch beauty, this has been on-going work.

Ten years after Ryan’s death In late 2013, our magnificent red Husky, Mojo, went into decline, followed swiftly by Molly, the rescued Rottweiler, and lastly Maddie, smallest but the true alpha dog of the pack. Already heart-strung from losing Ryan, helplessly watching these wonderfully engaging members of the family fade from existence drove the writing of the poems that ultimately became Dogs and Disturbance, the first book to be published. Many times after Ryan’s death, seeing Maddie I was reminded that Ryan had held her driving home from the kennel. That kernel became Coming Home to Stoneybrae, included below. The poems included in the book allowed the postponement of editing Southern Son, without a doubt the most difficult to finish.


Margaret Fedder’s gracious review highlighted Coming Back to Stoneybrae. Dogs and Disturbance won an award in 2014 INDIEFAB Book of the Year Award Honorable Mention.

Billy Collins declares the subject of poetry is death. These poems meet this basic criterion. But are they more meaningful than one person’s grieving in a public forum? If they are poignant, do they contribute anything more? Black ash blows away in a wind; love and loss are what remains.

Coming Back to Stoneybrae

Ten years have gone no faster since, before the brick bat slammed

our lives off orbit, lived like innocents ‘til then. Imagine ten

bucolic falls in yellow leaves, nor‘easters scouring the beaches

untouched by the weather trudging steps in pantomime amazed by life and crying.

When Ryan was fifteen we brought two Huskies home in January’s ice box winds

the panting little red dude riding shotgun on my lap his sister Ryan took to hold

fluff in gray and white in back. Moments after being inside our white limo

with good heater from Bavaria Red began to pant, his tongue so small, so lost in fur.

Coming back to Stoneybrae winter’s children with us; Sunday nightfall he was gone again.

Fifteen, he was a man who I never saw enough lived lives in parallel

missing minor rituals and clues counting down to what was going to kill him.

Wee things that they were bounding, sliding hardwood floors practicing for arctic flows

new kids home at midnight  I slept beside their cage  upon the kitchen floor. 

Three years would pass, Mojo grew into his own  grew a lion’s mane of red  

ermine ladies lusted for  the leonine great movie star  Innisfree’s best offspring  

running nights full out  signaling his sister trapped  the coon who’d taunted them 

the clown in love with life  troubled only by our absence  and small white dogs he hated 

moving shortly to the lake house  Ryan starting college, beach  time coming in October. 

What kind of father lets  go his son like that to think  puppies could replace him? 

The math of ten, a math  of mourning: one eighth    a lucky life, just past half of Ryan’s,

near the whole of Mojo’s  yet he filed no protest   too much the gentle stoic. 

Ten years too near the day  of Ryan’s, my handsome Red  with nothing left to comfort me 

slow walks not even feeble  jumps for happiness, sank  his head between his paws. 

Time seems an invention  an iron box with no escape.   October’s come again.