Monday, April 10, 2017

National Poetry Month 2017 Day 10: Poetry By Charles Rammelkamp

Charles Rammelkamp is Prose Editor for BrickHouse Books in Baltimore, where he lives, and edits The Potomac, an online literary journal – . His latest book is a collection of poems called Mata Hari: Eye of the Day (Apprentice House, Loyola University), and another poetry collection, American Zeitgeist, is forthcoming from Apprentice House later this year.

The Autodidact

A vocabulary like a refrigerator
that hasn’t been cleaned for six months,
a hodgepodge of containers of moldy sour cream,
half a red pepper cellophane-wrapped,
collapsing in upon itself,
something smelly in the fruit hydrator, 
Randy collected words as if with sell-by dates.

“He was a caricature,” Randy observed grandly
to the rum-dums at the Drunken Clam bar, 
pronouncing the word as if were a dead insect,
emphasis on second syllable: ca-RICK-a-chure.

Yet he’d hammer you with facts
about Russian access to seaports
in a way that made you wonder 
if he really was well-read
or simply steeped in conspiracy theories 
from “strange tales” journals.

As in a game of Stump the Stars
he attended lectures by guest professors
on Latin American literature, tripped them up
with obscure quotations from Marquez or Vargas Llosa,
as if his real intent was to say:
I’m just as smart as you.

We all root for the underdog, yes,
but we also know “obnoxious” when we see it.


After the election,
I set up a booth at the harbor
offering free hugs.
I think I’m an attractive girl,
and I’m nothing if not warm.
People were hurting; they responded.

I didn’t ask for money,
but most people left bills, grateful –
not as if it were a kissing booth at the fair,
but just out of sheer gratitude for the humanity,
the reassuring contact.

I admit I began to feel like a saint.
I’d meant it as a temporary measure,
but after a week it was like my mission.
I didn’t advise, I didn’t preach,
kept my counsel – just the hug.

But then a man in a long overcoat,
his nose red, as if from drink,
pointed me out to passersby,
told them I was being paid by George Soros.
It was just too much; I started to cry. 
I needed a hug.

The Wheels on the Bus Go Round and Round

“Public transportation?” Feit snorted.
“Forget about it. You never know 
if the bus will even show up, for one.
You can spend up to an hour
standing in the rain or snow, just waiting,
helpless, freezing your nuts off.

“Or you’ll have to hang onto a pole
like some downhill skier,
or swing like a monkey from the overhead bar,
up to forty minutes or more.

“Or if you do get a seat,
it’s next to some noisy asshole
who sneezes all over you,
or some smelly farting drunk.”

“Or somebody who takes up both seats,”
I joked, a not-so-subtle dart that hit its mark.
Feit blushed, an overweight man
who ate chips and doughnuts all day at his desk.

“At least in my car I’m in charge.
I control the air-conditioning, the heat.
I listen to what I want to on the radio,
listen to my audiobooks or jazz CDs. 
It like it’s sacred space.”

“But what about the environment?”

“Fuck the environment.
I’ll be dead before it matters.”

1 comment:

  1. I was in precisely the right mood, which is to say a mood of great wrongness, when I read these poems by Charles Rammelcamp. They made me laugh, and they made me look around me where I saw characters not unlike those in first and third poems, and I also saw my generally goodhearted wrongheaded self in the Hugger. Thanks, Charles!