ISSN 1556-4975

OffCourse Literary Journal

 Published by Ricardo and Isabel Nirenberg since 1998


Poems by Charles Rammelkamp


When Shira chanted the haftarah,
living up to her name,
so musical and clear her voice,
the congregation congratulated me
for having such a fine daughter.

Mazel tov, Gottlieb,”
Myron Greenberg murmured,
clearly entranced,
as if seduced by a Jewish Siren,
and Shira, blushing, a recent bat mitzvah,
the curtains of her lashes lowered,
received her share of “Yasher koahs
as she came back to her seat
beside Miriam and me.

“You must be kvelling,”
a voice saturated with irony
pricked my ear from behind.
I looked into Cordish’s laughing eyes,
the self-satisfied little bantam rooster,
so superior but for no apparent reason.
We’d hated each other
since the days we were on the board together,
supporting rival candidates
for the cantor’s job,
and my guy, Greenstein, got it.

It didn’t help his wife, Chickie,
ran off with Stuart Finkelstein, the car dealer,
and his son, Mikey,
a rising star when he went to Duke,
got busted selling drugs.

“Don’t mind Ronnie,” Polakoff admonished
when I’d fume about the little pisher,
his neverending sarcasm.
“He’s got a right to be bitter.”

“I’m filled with naches,”
I replied to Cordish,
my tone calling him the schmuck he was.
Then I turned to receive
Elaine Rosenfeld’s kiss on my cheek.


My father told the tale
of pursuing my mom for weeks,
even after she said no five or six times,
when he asked her out on a date.
It sounded so romantic,
his persistence in the face of rejection.
True love conquers all.
Dad taught English at the Community College,
Mom was the department secretary.

But when I tried the same thing
with Suzanne at the office –
we work in a big insurance company –
I was called to the manager’s office for harassment,
accused of contributing to an intimidating,
hostile working environment,
made to watch workplace behavior videos,
placed on administrative leave.

Mostly I wonder about the story
I’ll tell my children one day.


When I turned ten, I started noticing
the sounds my mother and sister made
chewing their food. Utterly revolting!

“Could you please stop making those noises?”
I pled, Joanie rolling her eyes at Mom
as if to say, Ziggy’s being a pain again.

The slurping, the chewing, sucking.
I’d start to panic
when Mom called us to dinner.

I started wearing headphones at mealtimes,
just so I wouldn’t freak out.
Mom called Doctor Goodman.

"Misophonia,” she pronounced,
giving a name to my aversion.
“Kafka suffered from it, too.”

Mom and Joanie looked at each other.
They’d privately assumed I blamed them
for Dad walking out on us the year before.

Author Charles Rammelkamp is Prose Editor for BrickHouse Books in Baltimore and Reviews Editor for The Adirondack Review. A collection of poems about Rasputin and Russia in the 20th century, Catastroika, was published in May by Apprentice House, and another, Ugler Lee, has just been published by Kelsay Books.

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