Literary Yard

Search for meaning

‘The World is Not Renewed’ and other poems

By: R.T. Castleberry


Sleeping beneath
Goodwill blanket and sheets,
the first rattle of winter
against the windows,
I take tension into
every breathing day.
Feral, almost criminal,
I drive back threats, toss back
tavern shots and beers.
No matter where I strike,
any lie or line will work.
Labels cut from my suit,
I wear a 10X Resistol
with a Montana crease.
I take my Bible from
the back of the bookstore,
an ironwood cane into any fight.

Sun-struck, at a streetlight
my lover pauses in
clothes-fashion of rags and holes,
tee shirt dense, holding
Milagro Silver tequila and
homemade tamales in a bag.
We look for the
random things to be revealed,
swarms of symbolism to sort out.
We have two conversations:
“How do you join license and revolution?”
“What are the paycheck strategies
at the End of Times?”

Groomed to form answers,
we’re forced to hoard
nickels and quarters,
ragged singles, the solitary ten.
I’ve taught myself
a narrative of possessions,
the ceremonies that reward.
Save your words, she says,
for the cop car in an alley,
pleadings to a caseworker.
Late returning, indentured
through callous need,
we’re learning a life in the rain.



Descending autumn hills,
reprisals over, there is
nothing for me now.
Wiping bloody hands clean on prairie grass,
my enemies, many friends have died.
Looking to growth away from the frontier,
I’m leaving the West.
Selling my horse and tack,
I’ll drop my war bag in
a Southern Pacific passenger car.
Returning home,
I may study Delaware law,
take a desk in the family’s bank.
I’ll account for absence and passages:
where Jake landed, why Amy and Paul
ended as river crossing casualties,
laughing as the bullets struck.
Bracing my legs on the opposite seat,
I’ll sleep to thoughts of miles rolling,
fishing beaches, Atlantic winter storms.



Rain has shifted west to east,
flooding barrio ditches,
potholes of patched streets.
Wind tears at fuel station signage,
jungle gym park, bus stop plexiglass.
My wife dozes on sofa pillows,
stilettos off, Drambuie glass drained.
Her request, benignly drunken,
is an action I can’t complete.
On our first night,
she unhooked her bra, saying,
“I guess the date part of
our evening is over.”
A woman who rescues dogs
wants no children.

Sidetracked, scattered in
a confusion of gambling songs,
eclipse alignment,
I’m working towards resolution.
Straight shot Southern Comfort,
dreams at two-hour intervals
work against me.
Emptying my drink, I switch music
from Ronstadt to Dinah Washington.
Standing over her, I recall
a third date weekend—
emerald earrings against auburn hair,
reading her bedside book while she bathed.
Flipping to the end, the final word
was “Hell.”



In a conceit old as gin and jive,
madness starts with a mid-day call.
We have an itemized relationship,
a time-based theory of insensibility:
I give you ten minutes a quarter
for Reconstruction epics,
fables of sharecropper misery.
I’m told I owe a buffalo robe,
Vander Lee tapestries of clotted purple.
Without notice, I’ve
sold a clock, a clipper ship,
burned two pages of a three page will.

You were meant to mark
a track from Adam’s fall.
With a narrative formed
from diva storms, shylock violence,
I take an apple from the orchard earth,
sleep ragged in my hunger.
You take the silver rail to Monterrey,
the mistress route to Merida.
As pattern, as pleasure point
you live off a jade and jasmine charm.
Inked and pierced, women
prosper in your sphere.
Diaries carry names of the missing,
of graveside mysteries,
of Tom Horn, Ike Turner, Ty Cobb.

Not raised but released,
I walk the world, working
ragtime boats along the Natchez line.
I’m good with faces and facts.
I know the names everyone fumbles.
I catalog chat from club drinkers,
call girls at their tanning beds.
I turn a gunman’s cold-faced threats,
the flicking wrist of a crapshooter,
into three hundred dollar stories
for Mencken’s Mercury,
the Saturday Evening Post.

I saw you once
turn your searching, sleepy face
toward a tree with burning roots.
In that juicehead journey,
you left me two ten’s towards
a sixty-dollar fare, the horoscope
proving your weaknesses would be
my first, my final charity.
Through press wars,
column quotes and soundbites,
you’re an item in a chyron,
captured image in a meme.
We learned a settled life solves nothing.
The rasp of the phone ringing,
of the machine answering,
of the message spinning out
is thirty seconds of sound saying,
“No one knows you here.”



As I lock the apartment,
step to the sidewalk,
fog breaks for the morning.
On a neighbor’s balcony,
a rescue dog begins
a restless tread at leash length.
Through a dividing fence,
a lone smoker, with cell phone
and cigarette, waits for
a Friday shift to close out.
Making the walk to work,
Red Wing boots echo, popping
on pebbles, cracked tarmac.
Dizziness from sick days off
causes store lights to flicker,
gleaming through glass.

Trailing the lines onto Industry Row,
metal warehouses ring
from rolling doors,
dropped tools, lunch pails
of overtime workers.
Pushing through the union crowd,
I hear sullen voices brushed aside.
Reform negotiators for
the beer-bereaved, whiskey-fed
worry over threats loaded
from phantom numbers.

Passing out informer lists.
leadership is forming in a corner,
I’m handed car keys and payday cash,
extra ammo with a Ruger Security Six.
Willamette Carson catches my arm, saying,
“Don’t call. Keep going when you’re done.”
“Don’t look for me,” I say.
“I’m spending Spring break in Sonora—
or Santa Domingo.”
Putting the pistol in a lunchbox,
I pull up GPS on my phone,
looking for the first address.


R.T. Castleberry, a Pushcart Prize nominee, has work in Vita BrevisSan Pedro River ReviewTrajectorySilk RoadStepAway and Literary Yard. Internationally, he’s had poetry published in Canada, Wales, Ireland, Scotland, France, New Zealand, Portugal, the Philippines, India and Antarctica. His poetry has appeared in the anthologies: You Can Hear the Ocean: An Anthology of Classic and Current PoetryTimeSliceThe Weight of Addition, and Level Land: Poetry For and About the I35 Corridor.

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