Ricardo and Isabel Nirenberg since 1998
Poems by J.C. Rammelkamp
Registering to Vote
The Twenty-sixth Amendment
giving 18-year-olds the right to vote
wouldn't be ratified
for another six months,
but Congress had amended the Voting Rights Act
allowing 18-year-olds the right
in federal elections, just that summer,
so, back home in Michigan on Christmas break
from freshman year at college,
a buddy and I went
to Potawatomi Rapids City Hall
to register with the clerk,
like refugees from Alice's Restaurant.
I'd taken a tab of LSD
about an hour before.
Standing at the glass window
as if waiting in line for a ticket at the movie,
chatting with the middle-aged lady,
it all seemed so suddenly hilarious to me;
the woman appeared as Granny Clampett to me,
the Beverly Hillbillies matriarch
played by the vaudevillian Irene Ryan,
and I began howling with laughter,
tears in my eyes, doubled over,
Gary aghast by my side.
Oh, how invulnerable I felt!
"I don't know what's so funny,"
the woman sniffed,
clearly miffed by the scruffy college kid.
I bit my lips,
trying to hold in my elation
until after we'd signed our documents and left.
I was free! I was free!
I hadn't been looking for God,
but this was a moment of transcendence.
"What happened, mother? Why did we all run?" Bambi to his mother.
His grandchildren glued to the TV,
Shapiro spoke to his son.
"The guy who wrote Bambi?"
he mused, nodding to the screen.
"A Jew. Felix Salten.
Lived in Vienna. Prolific writer.
Plays, short stories, librettos, essays.
"Five years after he wrote Bambi,
somebody translated it into English,
and that's when it became a bestseller.
But Salten sold the movie rights in 1933
for a thousand bucks,
and when Disney made the movie in 1942,
he didn't get a dime in royalties.
Not only that,
but the Nazis banned his writings in 1936,
and when they took over Austria
a couple years later,
Salten fled to Switzerland,
where he died in forty-five."
Here's where Grandpa lowered his voice.
"Salten also wrote a best-selling porn novel,
Josefine Mulzenbacher." Then, mouthing the words:
"Subtitled, 'The Life Story of a Viennese Whore.'"
Furtive as a pickpocket,
Shapiro's son looked over at his kids;
oblivious, enthralled, they watched
Bambi, in all his innocence,
pursued by the wild dogs.
Charles Rammelkamp is Prose Editor for BrickHouse Books in Baltimore and Reviews Editor for The Adirondack Review. A chapbook of poems, Jack Tar's Lady Parts, is available from Main Street Rag Publishing. Another poetry chapbook, Me and Sal Paradise, was recently published by FutureCycle Press. An e-chapbook has also recently been published online Time Is on My Side (yes it is) –http://poetscoop.org/manuscrip/Time%20Is%20on%20My%20Side%20FREE.pdf
Another chapbook, Mortal Coil, is forthcoming from Clare Songbirds Publishing. A full-length collection, Catastroika, is also forthcoming from Apprentice House.