Poetry by R.T. Castleberry


Midday, mid-September,
Sundays come down
to patterns of salvation radio or Pay-Per-View.
A lowland Atlantic storm
hurries the scent of jasmine and river willow,
carries the jumpy sound of rainfall and rolling water.
My clothes and crutches are tumbled on the floor.
A Shelton blanket pulls at stitches,
black against raw red.
I snap from Vicodin dreams every 3 hours,
ink their code in a moleskin grifter’s log.
I don’t own my history.
Memory, illness, accident
belong to Yahweh
or Seagram’s 7.

This time, these days
I fear the January trait
that finds me soured and savage.
At each step, each limping half-step
down stairs and street
I’m seized by failure.
Empty, early avenues are mounded with mud,
debris of water bottles, toys, single shoes.
Falling leaves are dried darts in the heavy winds.
In a season exhausted by rain,
there is no pause.


I’m in the wrong cycle:
Mondays marred by hospice runs,
mid-week and weekends languishing
in dramas of heat wave and drunks on benders.
I am my own beast–
closer to insect than animal,
best friend to bastards who pay debts
with conflict diamonds and Juneau furs,
who fill their silences with
rolled scraps of maps and message blanks.
I’m aging out of despair.
It can’t carry humor savage as the sun.
Borne out by warnings of drying rivers,
by dust furrows, drought sky,
I’ve wronged the weather.


Coarsened by confusion and conflict,
half-mastered phrases of self-analysis and step program,
you make a decision. I make one as well.
With the return of Bogart videos, borrowed tee shirts,
we disassemble, disassociate.
I am curious as ever about
the complaints of March through May,
the absolute Yes and No
that was your reflex, your first emotion.

I have watched you in sleeping, distant disarray—
eyes closed off, dream-crushed,
stilled by the chill lyric of Sinatra and Chardonnay.
I have seen the night sliver of a quarter moon take your spirit,
a storm of birds shatter your language of illness and destitution.
Culled from memories of selfless parents and self-criticism
there is a portrait you favor:
of wound bandages in shades of umber and ochre,
scapular, worn rosary, missal,
shredded curls of divorce decrees and wedding catalogs.

There is no noise to you—
no larger part of aptitude or process,
no thought but modern rock and Marlboro Reds,
no lies, though you are dishonest.
You are less than your delusions,
less than the protocols of passive departure,
the survivor’s ritual of hosannas in shrouded white.
I am resolved to silence.
Were you to ask
I could not say what you are to me:
lover for a lifetime or a long distance call.


About R.T. Castleberry

R.T. Castleberry’s work has appeared in Abramelin, Texas Review, Comstock Review, Green Mountains Review, Santa Fe Literary Review, The Alembic, Pacific Review, RiverSedge and Caveat Lector, among other journals. 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.