"Burr" by Gregory Castle

Gregory Castle

Gregory Castle teaches Irish literature at Arizona State University. He has published books and essays on Irish writers, including Joyce, Wilde and Yeats. He has published poems in Jacaranda ReviewMergeBoyne Berries, and Revival. In 2010, he won 2nd prize in the 12th Francis Ledwidge International Poetry Award (Dublin, IRE).


It has that quality of making you stay,
the deft hand placed without pressure
on your arm, the halt in the voice
as a protest goes flat, then dies
in the hallway. Muffled voices scratch
against the awkwardness, which has risen
up around each of us like a glass booth.
A burr in the saddle is said to spook horses,
but do they abide pain in that way,
the steady prick of irritation, an insult,
really. Random generations, spent pods,
shards of an aged tree, looming over
an alleyway on a hot September night.
A burr lodges in the sandal of an old man.
He shakes his leg with practiced skill
and out rolls an indignant stone.
It is a reminder, he knows, that he has just
escaped the wrath of the earth, sunk into
his flesh, embedded stone, the tooth
of something shaken off. He rubs
a calloused heel in a calloused hand,
regarding me in the shade of an ancient hat.
We remain in that attitude awhile and feel
the trace of the burr in our sanctuary.