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“To Beauty, Unfamiliar” and “Leaving the War”

by R. T. Castleberry


On smoke-drift Sundays,

wintry morning winds,

the amused allure of dead romance

wrings wry couplets,

astringent rules of discourse.

Both sides rescued from

withering discontent,

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.


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.

Outside sanctuary,

dogs roam peddler streets,

nose overgrown gardens.

We won’t marry. I won’t leave.

R.T. Castleberry’s work has appeared in Blue Collar Review, K’in, Pedestal Magazine, Misfit, Trajectory, The Alembic and Switchback as well as many anthologies. Internationally, it has been published in Canada, Great Britain, Wales, Ireland, Scotland, New Zealand, Portugal. the Philippines and Antarctica.


Archive, The River

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