ISSN 1556-4975

OffCourse Literary Journal

 Published by Ricardo and Isabel Nirenberg since 1998


Poems by Charles Rammelkamp

Language Police

When we read in the newspaper
Seymour Rexite had died at 94,
my Zayde told me the story
why his parents immigrated
to the United States in the thirties,
having left Poland for Palestine
only a few years earlier.

“They were at the Mograbi Theater
in Tel Aviv to see Rexite
in Mayn Yidishe Mame,” he recalled,
“a couple days after Rosh Hashanah that year,
when a bunch of people calling themselves
the Army for the Defense of the Hebrew Language –
Zionists, of course –
burst in, threw ink at the screen
as if pissing on the film,
tossed smoke bombs at the audience.

“The cops came, made some arrests,
but the bastards came back,
forced the screening of the film to end.
Mame and Tate refused to leave their seats
until the lights were shut off
and they were in the dark.

“But that was it for them.
They left for New York as soon as they could,”
Zayde smiled, and then he laughed, adding
“where they saw Rexite on Second Avenue
in The Song of the Ghetto,
opposite Isa Kremer, the famous soprano.

“Oy! Those Hebraists were Nazis!”


Go, Cubs!

Danny’d spent his entire life rooting for the Cubs.
As a kid he’d go to Wrigley, cheer
for a succession of heroes from Ernie Banks
to Ryne Sandberg to Sammy Sosa.
Over and over they’d broken his heart,
losing the NLCS to the Padres, then the Giants,
and the heartbreaker in 2003 to the Marlins
when the kid in the stands
disrupted a catch by Moisés Alou
in the sixth game at Wrigley,
the Cubs leading the series three games to two,
four outs away from the World Series.

But hey, if Bob Dylan could win the Nobel Prize,
why couldn’t the Cubs win the World Series this time?
But Danny’d given up hope,
his Cubbies down three games to two,
headed back to Cleveland for the final games –
even though Lebron had faced the same odds,
winning the NBA title for the Cavs
just a few months before.

When Chicago blew a three-run lead in the eighth,
four outs away from victory,
Danny, who’d allowed himself to hope again,
felt as if the gods were laughing at him,
twisting the knife.  Only, Mirabile Dictu!
The Cubs won the Series in extra innings!
November 2, 2016!

But a week later,
Danny’s elation would evaporate like mist
when he woke to the presidential election results,
another improbable outcome.


Charles Rammelkamp is Prose Editor for BrickHouse Books in Baltimore. Two full-length collections were published in 2020, Catastroika, from Apprentice House, and Ugler Lee from Kelsay Books. A poetry chapbook, Mortal Coil, was published earlier this year by Clare Songbirds Publishing.

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