Poems of Working Life by R.T. Castleberry

I take a 12 month chip,
a copy of The Iceman Cometh,
drape myself in Union blue,
cultivate a salesman’s grinning grip.
A Valley trip lies ahead,
road miles registered in a company car.
Spring becoming summer,
there’s a ghost in the garden,
a feral cat, sensuous in the drying grass.
I light a Tiparillo,
block walk the gentrified greenery–
open lawn, fenced lawn,
high oaks arcing the boulevard.
Black dirt dust from a truck farm town
cakes a two-toned Chrysler.
The 5 column church is silent
this Thursday afternoon.
Doors are locked. I tip my hat
to the service schedule
set and framed in quarry marble.
A Hickey-Freeman coat of summer weight wool
is thumbed over a shoulder.
There is no place left I seem to see.
Cigar ash flurries in the wind.
The Countess Mara silk stays tight,
tied with a 4 hand knot.
An oil derrick figure on tie clip and cufflinks
mark ten years service
Down a distant circular drive,
a lone boy pushes a bike.
He hops the seat, gains the pedals,
wings around the median
and is gone.
I’ll bring a survey team
to this memory next week.
Beneath a sun blare of sidewalk, black tar parking lot,
wind-rolled trash—newspaper pages, store bags,
catches the traffic pass of luxury ride and low rider,
tramp, jogger, backpack business student.
Pickup truck smokers,
cell phone holsters sagging under
logo uniform shirts, fast food bellies,
load equipment on rolling carts,
tools and cords tumbled onto rattling shelves.
Their talk is PO’s and work orders,
differences in high def tv’s, satellite or cable,
the blue collar bitch over shorted pay, short hours.
As they snag ID’s from a guard station,
security officers are slamming out work stories,
the curse of the clueless, the rude, the irrational request:
“An’ I tell her, you better call my supervisor.
I cain’t do that on my own.”
They joke, break off
for guard posts and walking patrol.
The workmen run the freight elevator
to the installation floor.
Beside the building,
the wheelchair Army vet
secures his corner, raving
about the patriot’s place in the Christian kingdom.
Spray can art tags Malcolm X, Hendrix,
the yellows and greens of Pancho Villa.
Light rail cars chime their crossing,
a sector cop settles to the curb.
The plaza tables sit shaded and empty,
fountain silent as the feeding birds.
We will make a solitude and call it peace.—Owen Lovejoy
I take an autumn trail,
aching scarlet, dying to brown,
the hush this day the breathy weariness
of early rising wage workers,
the drunkard whose wine awakens him,
the assassin and the troubled lover leaning on their pens.
The toy whistle of the mid-town Metro
sounds a crossing above the stillness.
Beneath streetlights
kitchen staffers wheel their mountain bikes,
gleaming in fresh button downs, black Dockers.
A Mercedes thrusts by, sleekly silver.
I stop beside my car,
splash dregs of chicory coffee across the median,
toss newspaper and pack to the passenger side.
Tension tightens my neck to an ache.
An acid sweep of high, dry wind hits
and I curse a little.
November brings no more than June—
no easeful rain, no better jobs,
no news more helpful than a lie.
The reaping sun won’t rise for another ninety minutes.
Today, again, I surrender to survival.
The edge of day begins at this roadside.
R.T. Castleberry’s work has appeared in ‘Merica Magazine, Comstock Review, Green Mountains Review, Santa Fe Literary Review, The Alembic, Pacific Review, RiverSedge and Caveat Lector, 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.

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