Poetry 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 offered but impulse and wiseass wit.
I carry every word of
Garryowen and Staggerlee in my memory,
mass them tenderly in a Beale Street bar,
match 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 stalking
with a Starlight scope and a minister’s consent.

Dawn a deathbed 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 are stained with fire.
Caught with a camera and the pictogram machine,
I count my coins in that blizzard.
The dead make their claim, elusive, insistent.
I share my debts with a victor’s moon.


Nearly November
the seasons read as unsettled,
wither into wariness.
Whether service, tithing
or strength of witness,
the right shape of redemption eludes me.
I wake to my resentments–
short rations, a silent phone,
the bristle of poverty’s labor.
Staggering tired,
I take a sunrise turn,
cigarettes and cinnamon gum
to cover the morning drinks.
Hard hat workmen at
homestead building sites,
sleepy runaways in the homeless park
begin their rising rounds.
The newspaper I stole from a neighbor
smudges my hands with colored ink.
“A War Declared” is the headline.
“Details, B-16.”


Every day a difficult smile.
Like a migrant’s prayer through misery,
I practice the craft of sunrise survival.
I watch a feral dog giving birth
at the edge of a grave.
I dream of river geography,
maps away from canyon sand,
a cross posted with names—
Internet aliases, graffiti tags, felony blood.
Lies can make a life.

Tired of confessions,
summer’s heat, fall’s clenching shadow,
I’m soured beyond spite.
I feel like I’m failing,
as if each next breath slits me, cell to cell.
I state my case:
I want to radiate danger,
disregard the petty lover’s séance,
the madness drenching every compass point.
I want a punishment phase that fits.


About R.T. Castleberry

A former Ray’s Road Review contributor, R.T. Castleberry’s work has appeared in the Comstock Review, Green Mountains Review, Santa Fe Literary Review, The Alembic, Pacific Review, and RiverSedge, among other journals. He’s a 2014 Pushcart Prize nominee. He is a co-founder of the Flying Dutchman Writers Troupe, co-editor/publisher of the poetry magazine Curbside Review, an assistant editor for Lily Poetry Review and Ardent. His work has been featured in the anthologies Travois-An Anthology of Texas Poetry, TimeSlice, and The Weight of Addition. His chapbook, Arriving At The Riverside, was published by Finishing Line Press in January, 2010. An e-book, Dialogue and Appetite, was published by Right Hand Pointing in May, 2011.