Take your time in Dubai,
take your turn in Kabul or Jerusalem.
In seven rooms that face the river,
I pace my panic.
Uncapped paints pile table and desk.
Arrival Ceremonies, The Hangman’s Departure
are panels settled in a painter’s gallery.
Mystery lines, bruised hands that won’t heal,
assemble portfolios furtive with contrition and conjecture.
Asking my question twice,
I’ve heard no answer.
For each day, you own a different smile:
courtesan lilt, business bright,
modest mistress of the sewing room.
There is a conceit harbored by each city’s lover
that your restless grace leaches a world pale,
your gravity in sleep commissions a meteor’s demise.
I hold your husband’s wary note,
a check, a pair of airline tickets.
I attempt no offense. I leave easy.
The evening turns late, light-hollowed,
suitcases lined like rifles in a barracks.
Framed by river bank and cliff walls,
water’s fall blooms to the moon,
splashes white as it falls, as it flows.
Car lights, heat lightning slice the window panes.
Town car idling, we argue destination and direction.
Opinions hold, bitter and bearing gifts.
This is me speaking less:
I want to float on a joke.
At a certain, early point,
sit in the back of the room
with a cigar, a wheat beer, a cheer;
make a punchline the emotion
that will carry.
I have no audience save those
who turned the century with me.
I sidestep catalogs and categories–
mawkish poet, wistful drunk, memoir child,
who argue for advice too loudly or too late,
who won’t challenge the orderly sequence.
Logic languishes like sunlight sieved through fog.
Coiled into this darker morning,
I stir the words that seek silence, seek approval,
that maneuver the message beyond
endurance, insult, the obvious injury.
The gate swings wide.
An oak leaf glistens,
spinning from a spider web.
Hard showers of an afternoon storm
drive the street play indoors.
I carry a wound to the world,
a greedy, grinding complaint
that mirrors ruined city rows,
a scattering of ravens under a lynching limb.
I watch old friends get sick, go soft, go Socialist.
A brother who wished a death
found it at the hanging end of a leather belt.
This is not my war. They are not my poor.
Two flags fly below a full moon.
Impatient with clenching beauty,
I rush sunset to see another sunrise.
RT Castleberry’s work has appeared in Comstock Review, Green Mountains Review, Santa Fe Literary Review, The Alembic, Pacific Review and RiverSedge, among other journals. I’m 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.