Charles Rammelkamp

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The idiot kid next door didn’t know
the swastika he chalked
on the mortared bricks by our front door,
a foot below and to the right
of the mezuzah angled like a rocketship
on the doorpost at our entrance

would turn my mother-in-law
into something
resembling a mythological monster,
shrieking with rage, eyes blazing,
mouth frothing with spittle,
hands curled up like talons,
itching to claw his eyes out,
tear a gash in his little nine-year old’s throat,
her fury like an aura about her

while he whimpered his innocence,
his apologies, his guilt,
his promise to never ever ever
do something stupid like that
ever ever again,
bleating I didn’t mean to, I didn’t mean to,
I didn’t mean to….

Anti-Semitic Incident

I’m a librarian for Christ’s sake,
not a bouncer in an after-hours bar!
Why Judy Fisher thinks
I could have done anything
but call 911 – which I did,
after the initial shock –
is just beyond me.

The crazy man shoved Judy asideArtwork by Gene McCormick
when she was trying to pay
an overdue fine for a DVD,
thinking she’d cut in line.

“You Jewish piece of shit,”
he growled like a rabid dog.
“Butting ahead in line, think you’re
better than everybody else.”

Judy stumbled, off-balance,
fell against the shelf of new books
catching her glasses on an edge.
They flew off her face,
one of the lenses scratched beyond use,
the sharp point of the earpiece
ripping a gash in her temple
that would require five stitches,
blood staining her cashmere sweater.

The man stalked out,
tearing the door off its hinges.
He was caught on the surveillance tape.
Later the cops tracked him down.

“Why the hell didn’t you do something, Mary?”
Judy shrieked at me,
“instead of just standing around like a cow?”

Now Judy’s opened a civil suit,
damages in six figures,
and named me as one of the plaintiffs.
What the hell did I do?

That Jewish piece of shit.


I was so pissed off at the gangbanger
in the truck behind me at the stoplight,
windows rolled down,
some fucking heavy metal
blasting away like a marching band.

The wrath of Achilles
I thought, springing from my car
like a jack-in-the-box,
tire iron in hand, my hefty
Pelian ash-spear.
Sing, O Muse.

“How could you lose your temper
like that?” my mother pleaded,
my head hung between my knees,
more weary than repentant.

My arms still felt the pleasurable ache,
slamming the windshield, the headlights,
the rearview mirror, the kid
too shocked to react.
Lucky for him
a patrol car idled
on the other side of the intersection.

“Temper, temper, temper,” Mama sighed.
“If only you’d learned to control your temper.”


“We superimpose Medusa on the innocent face of a girl.” – Saul Bellow, More Die of Heartbreak

“Hey, baby!  You want to suck on this?”

It was always like this
when Melissa passed
the construction site
on her way to work.
But she had to run the gauntlet.
Any other route was impracticable.

It was almost background noise by now,
but the cardinal rule remained:
don’t make eye contact;
don’t engage these goons.
Ignore them.

“She thinks she’s too good for us.”

“”Look at that ass, man.  Oh, baby!”

“She is too good for you.”

“Is that right, baby?  You too good for us?”

If only she could look at them
once, Melissa thought,
turn them into stone.

Charles Rammelkamp’s latest chapbook, Mixed Signals, was published by Finishing Line Press. A new book, Mata Hari: Eye of the Day, will be published in 2015 by Apprentice House. Charles edits an online literary journal called The Potomac,