R.T. Castleberry

Image by: Robert Cudmore

“Have a blessed day,” my neighbor says,
handing off an End Times pamphlet.
Torn as any article of soured faith, 
it makes a bookmark, a decent coaster.
On this stool, I’m in attendance
as a silenced screen clarifies
what is rot, what is riot, which the righteous.
“Wish You Were Here” insinuates on Sirius.
The barista’s tattoo sleeve flexes
Scorpio, Semper Fi, Sister Joy.
Paperback cover unfolded to Atlas Shrugged,
he grins, “It’s only for the jokes.”

The everyday stone is
mired in airless marriage, 
mission statement, militant faith.
It’s a totem we worship nearing the shore,
the text sent to sanction compromise.
It carries a corporate icon,
plainly marks the date in the Palmetto bestiary.
We are heaving it after ladder trucks,
after the occupying army,
a sheriff’s lawyer in his Lexus.
Twined with barbed wire,
it sparks when it strikes.

Passing into harm, 
we face a cop with hands raised,
a judge with a crony’s jail to fill.
Backpack homeless range  
intersection sign to sidewalk squat,
a refugee’s dog yelps at every droning sound.
Wrist scarred by cable tie cuffs, bullet’s rip,
the soldier recites a citizen’s pledge.
Work sneakers puffing the dust,
strikers grab the day’s only sandwich,
walk for better wages.
The callous line is the midnight instant message:
Trust me. Only I can save you.

In this danger, there is no truth.
We must protect our sacrifices,
take the measure of our enemy’s outrage
as their fear, their failure.
We must know our answers, 
know our names mean the same thing,
know first agony is private, the next a fight.
Singers in the same voice,
we’ll leave our stories
in the Insurrection Archives. 

Author's Commentary: Although I don’t usually write overtly political poetry, I felt a citizen’s obligation to address the current poisonous climate. But rather than as complaint or piece of straight agit-prop, I wanted to approach it in a subtle, crafted way. While composing "Insurrection," I made a point of studying Yeats' "Easter 1916" and especially Auden’s "September 1, 1939." 

R.T. Castleberry

Summer is settled
by exhaustion’s cruelties, seized assets,
by the slip of failing idols.
I’ve devised an easy manner
measured through private murmurings,
the correctness of a cool and canny wife.
Neatly, by disregard or puzzled demurral,
I’ve removed myself
from the boredom of burdens shaped by obligation.
Three deaths form tallies in a ledger.
They bring no light. They bring me to the next day.

In a Sunday hotel
the in-house morning movie contains
the 1960’s suicidescowboy star, ingenue, screenwriter,
as they scurry a set in desert Vista Vision. 
They surrendered to ironies of training and location shoot.
From each throat, each etched line
they offered themselves as pathologies,
as the last sacrifice, the other prize.
They lingered over screen language,
cracking from long, measured takes,
from acting methods and Methedrine.

There are three views from this casino:
the north road to Whitley’s Point,
the Williams Valley bridge,
a runner’s track beside Parson’s Winter Creek.
CNN reports fires streaming the Western states,
two of the famous fallen the same day.
In the logic I follow from these stories
there’s no concern for sincerity.
Rancor abidessinister and easy.
I’m counting on the wind to shift,
betting in the bar on a third battered life to cease.

Author's Commentary: This poem is built around the old Hollywood legend that stars die in threes. I remember being up one Sunday morning, watching some Fifties wide screen epic, and suddenly realizing that all the major participants—several of them personal favorites, had long since died—in lurid or tragic circumstances. As a side note, I have to admit seeding Phantoms, strictly for my own amusement, with several country music references.

RT Castleberry pic.jpg

As a poet, R.T. Castleberry has been publishing, nationally and internationally, since the early Seventies. He’s acted as co-editor/publisher of the poetry monthly, Curbside Review. Mr. Castleberry received a Pushcart Prize nomination in 2014. 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. 

For more, read our interview with R.T. Castleberry.