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Poetry by RT Castleberry 

RT lives in Houston, TX.




© 2003  RT Castleberry




This Southern moon,
heat weather of rain, slow, pulsed wind
has closed my eyes,
lain me sleeping
in a river town of children and fire,
glass in shades and shards
of false green, veiled blue.

With siren calls for helicopters,
for warrant search and seizure,
in the wash of steel on freeways,
the white of dresses passed
on endless summer sidewalks,
the daylight city glistens
like an opal, like a pearl.
The church bells toll a time, a sound
passive as a priest.
Two lunch-goers kiss
and taste of Chardonnay.

Beyond these warehouse piers,
the passing lines of barges and tankers,
stand steam swamps,
marshes of cypress and blue heron,
the saltwater wake of fishermen.
One memory, one coarse ethic
was this city's,
was my father's first lesson:
we are defined, he said,
by the ease with which we are caught or leased,
by the ease with which we die.
On a moon-flooded night
the burn-off flame of a chemical plant flared-
three miles away,
three hundred feet in the air.





As the seamless slide of church season and battle line
stirs the cemetery dust of Missionary Ridge and Manassas
the trance of illness
blurs the buzz of coincidence and tradition.
You trust in seance and anarchy,
newscast and newsreel flicker
of Zapruder and Dallas, 1963.
I have seen you tangle exposition and theory
in driven paragraphs of editorial retort,
heard the swarm of symbolism
that is Kaballah, coven
and legitimate concern
as if you were two friends
who disagree at dawn and dusk.

With an instinct for moral instruction
and a stalker's ethical stance
you have married
less for measurable merit
than to monitor the rate of your working class rise.
Discreet and dispassionate,
your wife collates suicide texts at the Penalty Archives.
She practices the politics of disdain
in a free speech salon
where brunch debate savors the chill of buzz word and bottom line.

The few words you have
that are not the rhythmic mumble of
metaphysics, pop music
and medication
cluster like cracked ice and sediment
in the bottom of a glass.
With your empty preference for cleverness over blood,
the spin of Heidegger and hypochondria,
you remain the perfect, happy cipher:
no closer to one
than to everyone.

Through the creep of day to decade
you have prospered as keeper,
half-matched partner,
Savannah bodyguard.
I have grown wary of the corrective violence
in your hospital calls,
the tremor of dissolution
in the tardiness of your concession calls
to Herod and Mephistopheles.
With your schemer's frame of mind
I will not be missed.
The Natchez Trace and the Western trails are open.
The Mississippi, the Red River and the Rio Grande
sound a healthier promise
today and tomorrow.
I am following a runaway tradition:
I have Gone To Texas
and beyond.






I wake to the mercy of lost memory,
the confusion of irony and attraction.
Work week to weekend
I sense that a death wish is one ambition,
that I am wrong about all I profess to know.

Born of Southern parents
I don't dream
their fever of failure and Gospel pride.
Filled with conceit,
full knowledge of felony court,
eviction notices,
inappropriate women,
I have felt the shiver of suicide--
the spinning sense that all things
are lost, indecipherable.

Hours in idleness,
I trace a knife blade on sharpening stone,
the mythology of terror screened on editorial TV.
Joy is foreign to me.
I confess it.
I have spoken
as decorous child, cold lover,
I take these voices into sleep with me.




Wars end. Hostilities go on forever.
Pablo Picasso

Spires of ruined cities
swirl in autumn wreaths of yellowing leaves.
Cemetery shafts of marble, of oak
slip in erosion mud of oil slick and levee spill.
Homes shuttered for sleep burn as beacons, as warnings.
Death is sweet recall.

"I work the neon hours, " she said.
"Scratching out salary plus tips for a place at his side.
I love his wake up kiss and his cock,
the broken boy, the barstool baritone."
"She loves me for a listening phrase chattered
over beer and Sunday stew,"  he said.
"It was a line. It was a joke.
It was punctuation in patter
after a three day weekend.
I like her casual style,
the front seat sex, a Court Street view."
"I remember he held me on his shoulders
as we cheered the militia in review.
I remember his stride, his silhouette in a suit
as he helped me to my feet in Seven Stones Casino."

Rumours fly the corner crowds:
All flights have been grounded. The Navy has run aground.
Refuse of leaflets, ribbons, banners litter a sniper's line.
EMS and police sirens rise and wail in parade.
Death is gliding, like a crow on the wing.

"I have two dreams," he said,
"one is this city, the other is jinxed if I tell.
After school and the Navy,
four years on the job,
I don't sleep-I satisfy."
"He offered me money and a medical plan,
doctors happy with either decision," she said.
He said, "I can honor a judgment any way it goes."
"I love this baby," she said.
"But I'll teach it cunning and despair.
This child will suffer the daily truth
of his mother's injury, his bastard sign."






All poems are copyrighted property of RT Castleberry.



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