R.T. Castleberry

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Artwork by Gene McCormick

At the Interval, A Drink

The Sunday wind rising,
a widow, weary at her stories,
drapes stone stairs with
garlands of ivy, white tulips,
a liturgy script.
Lizards crawl the layered length.
Service dogs seethe at their leashes,
pyres seize the air.
Neighborhoods overlap cratered sidewalks,
collapse into colonias raging color,
into gated beige or brown.
Rain in callous intervals
washes out the gardening earth.
Take this as best lesson:
winter on the cusp,
the widow will have her Manhattan very cold,
will endure the chasing flurry of
starling, sparrow, blue jay.

The Body Acting Upon the Mind

Loud, across 4 city lanes, a jukebox kicks up
a barmaid’s call to morning drinkers:
King of the Road following Seventh Son.
Summer sweating, standing in stone-scuffed boots,
I’m choking on gravel dust at the edge of a ditch

Deeper is darker is damaged—
donation clothes, foster home years,
county clinic Gold Cards.
The dream where my father
rages in the next room
replays six times a month.
First loyalty is seeing myself protected.
I go silent, grow anxious when given a gift.
I quit praying after three years without response.

Roadwork trenches empty the stores.
I squirm on a broken bus stop bench,
juggling tokens and library books,
the hazards of a parent’s promise,
long rides to retrieve VA meds.

Deeper is darker is damaged—
Friday fight, weekend chill,
apartment moves at the first of the month.
Bitter is a child shoplifting for his lunch.
If I avert my eyes,
it’s to hide suspicion.
In the car, I keep a copy
of Time Out of Mind, of Late For The Sky
as language sharing the limits of survival.


Windows open to sleeping gray,  
my room is a shell of information sleep,
honor debts, the graves of Funeral Summer.
Early on a Sunday, I imagine trouble,
wake to the apartment kids scramble,
sirens after motorcycles shriveling the air.
Making a life alone, I secure
my credentials from five lies,
a dread veering these martial streets.
Voice closed off,
I sacrificed my words last week,
defying sunset curfew, seeking a risky dawn.

Eyeing old acres,
I lift a phone, take a photo,
capturing beauty with the bitter, the oblique:
flare of lights across oily water,
hobo’s stroll from tent to liquor store,
sagging, sadder houses spread along the river.
Marchers at mid-day message their intent,
take a street beating Security contends is justice.
Four preachers witness to a later crowd
on Jesus’ Method and the police baton,
the Record feature under stress.
All I’m capable of is a memoir of collapse.

Drinking poor,
I ration the wine, amuse the guests with
work stories from a beachtown fair,
pleasures and secrets of an icehouse childhood.
Poster paints, gun oil stain the table cloth.
Sky-wide vistas shrink with rallies rising voices,
refractions of bonfires, profile arrest.
As I enter the Nickel District,
I see an anxious expression in
every display window I pass.
I shake the day, like water from a coat,
double-bolt my door locks.


R. T. Castleberry’s work has appeared in Roanoke Review, Santa Fe Literary Review, Pedestal Magazine, Comstock Review, Green Mountains Review, Silk Road and Argestes. Internationally, it has been published in Canada, Wales, Ireland, Scotland, New Zealand and Antarctica.