"A Meeting in the Wind," "Look for My Name in the Papers," and "Bao Chi"

A Meeting in the Wind

If you wait by the river long enough, the bodies of your enemies will float by.
               ― Sun Tzu


Only jaded,
I go looking for
the Christ-mounted movie
to access redemption.
Comic in refusal to fast,
I choose a rigid self-denial
from bourbon and curbside service.
Walking out for drinks,
my doctor confessed to a taste for
chain mail fetish and other men’s wives.
I refused the video views, though not his nurse.
Only jaded,
I shun ubiquitous culture,
dreary creeds that resemble death in life,
dire fables that mourn the future,
offer consent to the witch hunt mind.
Newspaper, Page 1 reports hysteria motive;
Section C, Page 3 a sedition design.
Self-informed by conspiracy podcast,
Armageddon novels on disc,
the history is fatuous grievance,
a poisoner’s malice.
Only jaded,
ravens remind us of battlefield stain,
carrion birds of drone sweep and fighter jet.
Learning to sleep in air raid corridors,
hunger den of poverty’s childhood,
address books fill with food banks,
Gold Card clinics, community center sites.
EMS split the streets,
militias own the intersections.
Dog packs rule the vagabond alleys.
Pyres of election posters warm sleeping circles.
Only jaded,
I arrange my drinking
in the Rising Tide Hotel--
daylong single malt, Friday’s trilby,
messengers directed to the favored suite.
Remembering Sun Tzu’s river proverb,
a bodyguard and Range Rover slink
beside the side door’s tattered palms.
Trade-focused, I sing Pony Blues,
keep a satellite phone, gold coins and cash,
listen for the well-timed warning call.



Look for My Name in the Papers

The first time we met
you were leaning
from a chateau terrace,
singing Chestnut Mare to me.
I answered with the poem I was writing
and you seemed satisfied.
You left a note at the bottom of the stairs,
asking if I cried when John Kennedy died,
led a march when King was shot.
I didn’t find it funny,
though I guess the residents laughed,
when you stood in the Lobby Lounge
with a sleeping baby, cutting
your fingers, calling everyone for drinks.
The last time we spoke,
you were easing days at Hotel Zoo,
reading Verlaine, leaning over 
shots of Ancient Age.
Your last words, I remember, were:
Look for my name in the papers.
Dame Julia came home from her South Asia trip today,
laying claim to Acadia, promising you’d be
the Orpheus belle at Mardi Gras this year.
Uncle Joey and Sam Bass thought they’d hidden
all the guns you’d bought or stolen
for the Monterrey job and the Christie’s robbery,
until they sat with you in El Mocambo
while you took aim at the acts onstage.
No headlines, no charges after
drinks with the DA, checks distributed
with a charity donation smile.
I sift famine sands in Africa,
hunt Asia’s monsoon jungles.
I settle sales and act as middleman
for time, for mines and conflict diamonds.
Rimbaud & Co. is what the ledgers read.
You’ve settled past bad debts
with penny stocks and legislation,
diplomatic bags to and from Tangiers.
I set a price in the Highlands,
the Company’s island fields.
I remember you in place, as part
of an early, other time.
I watch my back in Africa.



Bao Chi

We are short-time in Saigon—
waiting out artillery rounds and riots,
rumors of regime coup, ARVN rout.
Whorls of smoke from rice pot fire,
festival firecracker, short stroke Hondas
singe the Tu Do Street cafes.
Striding the GI bars, Motown implores,
Hendrix’ guitar drills the crowded night.
Halliburton engineers, West Point colonels
cycle through overseas tours,
pad their bills, their resumes.
In-country refugees, displaced farmers,
river fishermen trace lives
along the barbed wire canals.
We translate a service stench of
Highland pot, firepower,
vetted MACV verbiage into
the pidgin of broken words of war.
And, like medics bent
by litters of the wounded,
bear out lists of districts lost and KIA,
fables from the Five O’Clock Follies.
Operations are running down.
There is no time.
Mission creep, deadline rush
takes its tension toll.
Answering a question, one friend replies,
“I miss the ordinary nightmares.”
We are short-time in Saigon.


Bao chi is Vietnamese for “journalist”
ARVN is the Army of the Republic of Vietnam

MACV is U.S. Military Assistance Command, Vietnam 



R.T. Castleberry

R.T. Castleberry, a Pushcart Prize nominee, has work in Sangam, Glassworks, Gyroscope Review, San Pedro River Review, and Silk Road. 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. He recommends the Houston Food Bank.


Edited for Unlikely by Jonathan Penton, Editor-in-Chief
Last revised on Tuesday, July 2, 2024 - 06:53