Tuesday 5 November 2013

3 Poems by R.T. Castleberry


There is always a story at the end of a rocket.—Marie Colvin

Take an Elvis smile,
take a stare—long, impudent,
nothing to offer but impulse and wiseass wit,
illness excuses, a long drinking.
I carry every word of
Garryowen and Staggerlee in my memory,
mass them tenderly in a Beale Street bar,
march them like highway miles beneath a Cadillac’s tires.

Like a prisoner consenting to his chains,
I take my terror straight Delta--
black cat bone and a Memphis curse.
I ignore the soldier’s toll on TV,
wounded, worn-out, KIA;
ignore the sense of a gunman
creeping under a magnolia drape,
with a Starlight scope and his minister’s consent.

Down a death bed drone, a weary, wearing moan,
I listen for the helicopters chop, flight plan low.
They dust rooftop, phone line, intersection.
I stand in the wind, waiting for walls to fail,
stucco and stone stained with fire.
Caught with a camera and the pictogram machine,
I count my coins in that blizzard.
Elusive as comfort or candor,
the dead make their claim.
I share my debts with a conqueror’s moon.

I spend the night with emails, downloaded music,
sleep through Sunday in my Saturday clothes.
Without history,
undeterred by accidents, accents,
the road gang affiliation,
days lengthen like frontier shadows.
They smell of fever, of collapse.
I clear my throat with a delta cough,
purchase a missionary blade,
Larry Mahan boots,
Kerouac’s Dexedrine trilogy.
To live in my life you must show
endurance, a wise-ass affinity.
I allow two months for tenderness
before the judging begins.
Leave me bored, I drop you from the world.
Waking, framed by evasion,
I change from button-down stripes to tee shirt,
compose a good-bye
that neither undermines nor explains.
There are mistakes made when speaking plainly.
Half-truth is a haunted kindness,
limiting language assigned to a long farewell.


I open my morning door
to the cooing whir of birds in flight,
the glistening weave of a spider’s web.
Stepping out,
leather soles slide on dew-damp sidewalk,
a cat slips through the clutter of courtyard planters.
Wind-floated leaves hang in the morning haze.
A perfume trail of White Diamonds and wisteria
lingers like the moon.

Beyond the gated line of plank fences, security mesh
the street is a deep mosaic of shaded green,
sun-touched spreads of oak, palm tree, pine,
high, jutting arcs of new town homes.
Oleander and crape myrtle layer the street median.
Early students pass by, pack-laden, intense.
One carries a carving of a yellow-eyed crow,
almost losing it in the stretching leap over a puddle.

Tell me a story, the day seems to say.
Twenty years gone from Miami and Monterrey,
fables have fallen into disfavor.
The past is a dog nosing in the night.
I arch my back to ease it before the drive,
shrug my jacket into place.
I have no advice.
I leave with nothing but hours rolling to report.


R.T. Castleberry was co-founder of the Flying Dutchman Writers Troupe, co-editor/publisher of the poetry magazine Curbside Review and an assistant editor for Lily Poetry Review and Ardent. His work has appeared in Comstock Review, Green Mountains Review, The Alembic, Paterson Literary Review, Santa Fe Literary Review, Cenizo Journal and Clackamas Literary Review. He was a finalist for the 2008 Arts & Letters/Rumi Prize for Poetry. His chapbook, Arriving At The Riverside, was published by Finishing Line Press in January, 2010. An e-chapbook, Dialogue and Appetite, was published by Right Hand Pointing in April, 2011.

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