By: R.T. Castleberry
THE SILENCE IN FALLING
Staring down a waning January moon,
I feed dry brush to the campfire,
watch the desert track of freight cars
rounding a mesa silhouette.
Wild dogs yelp, loping the crossties.
Rising night pulls at my hat brim,
carries bright sparks,
Orion’s cast of meteor showers.
Ordering lists of injuries, errors, losses,
parables shaped from leaning on luck,
I’m trying to recover
the message in movement–
the wind drift of dunes,
a canyon bridge being crossed.
Standing in symmetries of
fire, sandstone, falling stars,
I push hands into a coat I pull close,
wait for the silence in patience,
in solitude, to arrive.
THE COLD, HALF-LIT WORLD
The night has a cool edge,
a red-moon eclipse and rain.
I take Heaven’s charm,
wear it casual as a trenchcoat,
as Cole Porter’s “Anything Goes” glide.
Headlights follow me,
jealous of the path I can afford.
Every apology has been made.
I’ve convinced the past I can do better.
Every drunk, every damaged child
knows they are forgiven.
As I take my dinner with a widow,
distant doors slam on the mural courtyard.
There are no funerals anymore;
only death on fresh sheets,
a memorial service.
Cell phone messages I recover
arrive from a disconnected line.
I sleep better knowing my ghosts
try to stay involved.
TO BEAUTY, UNFAMILIAR
On smoke-drift Sundays,
wintry morning winds,
the amused allure of dead romance
wrings wry couplets,
astringent rules of discourse.
Both sides rescued from
the trap of the average,
I settle into solitude.
They leave for other states,
take bed sheets, furniture,
leather jackets on loan
for movie chill.
Sunrise brings sirens,
fire and freeway fatality.
Blood is in the air—
princes, actors dead in their years.
I make sharp notice of
brute signals towards breakup.
The wearing, dire drain of
office fucks, midnight drinking,
bitch and bastard slams
collapses seething into dissolution.
Divorced, single or single mom,
we call it a long day after two years,
delete, block and unFriend.
She gets the pets, the Black Tears rum,
the art festival poster.
Birthday gifts, personal photos,
some dangerous memories
remain with me.
Ambivalence and longing tease weary days.
I’ll have tenth year regrets
when rumors reach me,
as graceless habits persist.
EVERYTHING YOU DO TO LEAVE
“Blue Gardenia” simmers, Dinah Washington
alive for an hour, no demand but memory.
Allure and longing waste beside
scents and sequence of
mistress’ Black Orchid, angry wives.
These long days, it’s easier
to refashion desolation,
screen a confrontation call.
Mindful of selfish gesture,
I slip into solitude.
Cracking the seal of soft whiskey,
ice shards frosting a tumbler,
I prepare the sharpest line
from a list of alibis.
The first swallow sickens.
The rest do not.
LEAVING THE WAR
Almost winter in this militant time,
mountain passes are locked as strongholds.
A directory of shamans consulted,
incantations have lifted a siege.
A peace conference is ongoing.
Twice weekly, gates open.
Soldiers stack their weapons beside the road
to dance with tradesmen’s daughters,
schoolteachers, grass widows.
The sophisticated—or less naïve,
know a love affair may work around
unbuttoned coats, pocket-warmed hands.
Our cloudy afternoon turns to dusk,
dim to dimmer light.
Possessed by votive candle,
lantern’s hanging glow,
we whisper praises together,
strains of adulation within
timber ruins of a bell tower.
With flights to welcoming hospitals,
medevac helicopters pass overhead,
shine a glancing beam on pale limbs,
dark hair falling past your shoulders.
Blankets folded, bota bag
plump with chardonnay,
we slice apples, manchego, sausage
to share, to carry forward.
dogs roam peddler streets,
nose overgrown gardens.
We won’t marry. I won’t leave.