American Mercy

R.T. Castleberry’s writing has appeared in Comstock Review, Green Mountains Review, Santa Fe Literary Review, The Alembic, Pacific Review, RiverSedge and Deep Water Literary Journal, among other journals. 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.


American Mercy

I sit on the edge of war, thirsty for release.
Wearing the white of mourning surrender,
I stack my rifle outside the harbor chapel,
march in queue for a meal.
The vagabond legions merit all respect
as they disappear into the city,
busk on streetlight corners,
take their turn as teacher’s aide, Kwik Copy clerk.
Co-conspirators at large, their ringtones sing:
“Give me Christ or give me Hiroshima.”

In visits overnight, I find friends
dead by protest beatings,
deaf with bleatings of family scorn.
Shattered, ill, they are ranking
clinics, hospice care, the mercy in
morphine over prayer miracles.
I sit with their dying, wince
at my needs, my loss in their leaving.
I wish them recovered.
I wish them no more pain.

Some mornings I’m called to waking
by a wicked piper, black dog at his feet.
He disturbs, discerns nothing save
grievance blare, ways of discontent.
I haul myself through a failure
that is cursing weariness,
a beggar’s snarl at bitter news,
Red Wing boots broken through to mud.
Eyes down, I revise my wolf pack memoir,
strike off another day in this sordid country.

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