ISSN 1556-4975

OffCourse Literary Journal

 Published by Ricardo and Isabel Nirenberg since 1998


Poems by Charles Rammelkamp

Contact High

You know how on a humid day
when you step out of an airconditioned building
it's like being gobsmacked by a steaming towel?
It was like that when the college kid
opened the front door,
after we'd already given up,
headed back down the steps,
Abby and I going door to door
registering voters, having been certified 
by the State Board of Elections.

The smell of marijuana almost made me choke,
but Abby didn't seem to notice.
"Oh, hey!" the bearded young man said,
surprised to find us there,
reaching into his mailbox.

"Hi! We're here to register voters," Abby announced,
"only eight weeks to the election."
She started to spell out the dismal voter turnout
in our state, part of the script,
but the kid seemed enthusiastic to register,
and we handed him a form and a ballpoint pen.

"You looked kind of surprised when you saw us,"
I noted. "Did you hear the doorbell?"

"Yeah, but I was down in the basement.
I was just coming up to check the mail."

"It's never good news anyway,
when somebody knocks on your door,"
I joked, knowing how annoying we might be.

"I know, right?" he agreed
with the absent-minded honesty of the stoned,
handing back the completed form.
"But thanks for doing this."

When we walked away,
I wasn't sure if my elation came
from registering my first voter
or the contact high from the pot.


The Seat for Sitting

"Anna," Uncle Milton said to his niece,
"remember when you were a toddler
and demanded to be lifted up
into the 'seat for sitting'
when your parents took you
shopping at the grocery store?"

It started out innocent enough,
but then the lure of the obscure,
catnip to Uncle Milton, caught his fancy.
"I went to college
with a guy who was related
to the man who invented the shopping cart."

Hand to his heart, as if taking an oath:
"I kid you not. Sylvan Goodman, a landsman,
owner of the Humpty Dumpty supermarket
in Oklahoma City. Introduced the shopping cart
in 1937, only thirty years
before I graduated from college!"
Uncle Milton shook his head in wonder.

"It was like a folding chair, that first one,
metal baskets where the seat would be,
wheels on the ends of the chair legs.
His invention took off, pardon the pun!
Grocery owners had to redesign their stores.
Goodman became a very wealthy man.

"I met him once. He must have been around seventy,
at the time, a little younger than I am now.
Told me he'd been born in the Chickasaw Nation, Oklahoma,
part of a shopkeeping family,
probably Jewish peddlers originally."

Uncle Milton's gaze turned inward with memory.
"A seat for sitting," he muttered,
as if he couldn't believe it.


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. His work has appeared frequently in Offcourse

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