ISSN 1556-4975

OffCourse Literary Journal

 Published by Ricardo and Isabel Nirenberg since 1998


Poems by Charles Rammelkamp


Schmidt walked into the Portland restaurant,
took a seat at a table amid the aroma
of steaming falafel, seared kabobs.
A decorated Marine sergeant major, Schmidt
approached the cash register after half an hour,
shouted threats and insults
at the Iraqi cashier,
then threw a chair at a waiter's head.
The man fell bleeding to the floor.
Schmidt, head shaved neo-Nazi style,
stalked out to the street.

Sahib, the restaurant owner,
who'd nearly been killed by a car bomb
a decade before in Baghdad,
shaken to his shoes by the attack,
knew he'd been targeted because of his ethnicity,
pressed felony assault and hate crime charges.

But Schmidt, who'd fought in bloody Ramadi,
blamed his behavior on PTSD,
for which he'd never received treatment
in the dozen years since his tour in hell.

"How can they say I hate Iraqis?"
his shrilling voice the high whine of crazy.
"I gave my soul for Iraq."


Have you fallen down recently?

At my check-up, the nurse
who took my blood pressure, pulse, temperature,
ran through the pro forma questions
pinned like a specimen to her clipboard.

"That's a new one," I remarked,
as if I'd just been dope-slapped.
"And the answer is no."

"It's just because of your age," she smiled.
"When you turn sixty-five,
there's a whole new set of questions.
Have you lost interest?"
she continued, reading from the script.
"Are you depressed?"

I remembered Vince, my childhood pal,
back in my hometown, Potawatomi Rapids, Michigan,
a guy my age. Just about a month ago,
his body'd been discovered in his house
a week or ten days after he died,
the police breaking down the door.
I hadn't actually seen him in decades
but heard about it from a mutual friend.

The friend had helped clean the house
after Vince was buried.
She told me the floor looked like a cotton field,
crumpled tissues all over,
dirty dishes piled in the kitchen sink,
plastic sacks of groceries slung over chairs,
forgotten rotting food, melted frozen dinners,
spoiled milk and cottage cheese.
She said she'd heard
Vince had been forced into retirement,
his foreman job at the factory
yanked away after several decades.

"No," I answered the nurse, "not particularly."


Death to Dittenhoefer

The son of a bitch abolitionist kike
behind Lincoln's election, Abram Dittenhoefer,
also jerry-rigged the draft
so the rich kids could buy their way out
for three hundred dollars,
leaving us working slobs, who couldn't afford
to pay a substitute, to do the fighting.

Me and Mikey Costello stood outside his house
at Thirty-fourth and Eighth that hot July day
just to let the bastard know how we felt
about his dirty tricks,
raising our fists and shouting our displeasure,
but peaceful for all that, orderly,
when the Jew called the cops down on us.
They beat us with their clubs
like we were rocks to their hammers.

I don't say I'm proud
some of us burned down the Colored Orphan Asylum
at Forty-fourth and Fifth,
killed thirty coloreds and hurt a whole lot more,
but it was that Hebrew devil's fault;
that's who's really to blame: the Jew.

Author Charles Rammelkamp is Prose Editor for BrickHouse Books in Baltimore, where he lives, and Reviews Editor for Adirondack Review. His most recent books include American Zeitgeist (Apprentice House) and a chapbook, Jack Tar's Lady Parts (Main Street Rag Press). Another poetry chapbook, Me and Sal Paradise, is forthcoming from FutureCycle Press.

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