How do you want this to end?

In trusting tales of Bedlam’s Orphanage:
death-pact of poverty and Percocet,
the role Bugsy Siegel and Sisyphus
played in a Western adolescence,
I urged skirmish and fury.
Every argument was answered,
every rebuke returned.

You waste your wind in a gunman’s cult.
You lack the wisdom of your skills.
Colors from your codeine mosaics
corrode like corrupted ground in a garden.
Similes and soft jokes,
uncertain metaphors in rondeau, haiku, villanelle
char in Gothic font of newsprint manifesto.
Twenty years of Milton’s admiration,
reversal of the Pistol Bishop’s reproach,
can’t stem the cooing, cruel conviction
that rewards are vanity,
that second best fulfills a life.

With the brittle clarity of moral distress,
lessons of loyalty wither into burdens.
You acquire a percentage from each beggar’s cup.
Your warmest, loudest laugh is employed
to keep allies nervous, the neediest alarmed.
Husbands Two and Four work prison mines in Mexico.
For the partisan three times denied,
your brother twines rope and wire for killing tools.
Syntax of questions coined from confusion
are lit by fraud, led by litigation.

I watch the waters rise in the mornings,
re-read the raging text
you composed for the carnival invocation.
I cut your name from my letters,
turn your portrait to the wall.
I count the change left in my pocket
and wonder how my trust was turned.

R.T. Castleberry, a Pushcart Prize nominee, has work in Vita Brevis, San Pedro River Review, Trajectory, Silk Road, StepAway and Dissident Voice. 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 Poetry, TimeSlice, The Weight of Addition, and Level Land: Poetry For and About the I35 Corridor. Read other articles by R.T..