Things Only Get Different from Here

At risky dawn, I stood under
lightning’s lash, rain’s rake,
stadium sharing the sky.
Dropped behind my Silverado,
daily empty pack of Newports
floats into the mud roots of an oak.
Along the barren roll of
parking garage and apartment lots,
white lift of bags snag barbed wire,
weeds entwine in chain link.
A pistol pulls at the back of my belt.

Trains stopped by artillery targeting,
I drive beside the railway line.
The Chelsea and Carousel are hospitals now.
Outside the Privateer Lounge,
recruitment lines stagger the sidewalks.
In their shorts and summer sandals,
two girls laughing in a doorway,
make a run through the
rubble of the assembly hall.

I move to side streets past the Civil Guard,
yellow tape looping overturned buses,
passenger backpacks leaking
exam papers, report cards, crayon art.
Wild dogs tear at barbed wire corpses,
rip death warrants pinned to uniform lapels.
Restaurant Row reeks of spoiled dinners,
rotted meat from freezers.
On a corner lot, cooks fire food trucks,
broil suspicious meat with smoke curling
from 2x8s splintered by concussion.

Firehoses stretch along the feeder,
fighting factory blaze,
explosions pulse from refineries.
Torched by raiders,
strip malls, strip joints melt to
mounds of burnt asbestos, beaded scraps.
Slowing down, I see staff handcuffed,
herded into an open truck.
I watch a man cart two mattresses
to his lean-to in a field.
Stopping, I step out, empty
a Bushmaster M-4 into driver and guards.
Taking beach roads to the border,
booking a flight to Cuernevaca,
I send conflict diamonds, laundered cash
to a Movement banker in the Cayman’s.

The civil war wears on.
I shape the refugee funding,
keep an exile squadron close.
Wanted under three names,
safe on an island hill, I break for
Peckinpah’s getaway movie.
Watching the final scene,
then a sanctioned epilogue,
“Bandits captured and returned for trial,”
I’m laughing in my seat, sharing
popcorn with the chief of police.

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..