Charles Rammelkamp

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Eternal Tattoo

I told Gritz what I wanted,
a naked woman flying off my back
like a vampire, my shoulders
her wings, breasts like pointing pistols.

But he told me he never
sketches before an appointment.
“Nobody has the same body,” he explained.
“I need to see you move, your muscles and bones.”

I’d been wait-listed at Gritz’s
for almost two years now, an artist
in demand. What would a few more hours mean,
or even days, if it took that long?

“It’s all about the ceremony,” he observed,
“the connection, the design,
that makes it all work together.”
Still no apology in his voice.

“When a woman’s heartbroken,
she wants a tattoo,” he continued.
“Or when she’s celebrating something,
a birth, a wedding, a break-up, a make-up.”

“So long as it remains legible
on my skin over time,” I told Gritz.
“I just want her to live
at least as long as me.”

The Language of Guilt and Innocence

Fume un joint, il ne t’arrivera rien

“Smoke one, get high.
Smoke ten get off,”
the stickers read,
a picture of a joint by the words,
the reporter told us
on the radio news program.

In Paris, an Arab man had been released from custody
for tossing his Jewish neighbor
over her third-floor balcony,
an anti-Semitic act of violence,
but the authorities deemed him not responsible 
for his actions, because he was 
“going through a delirious episode”
when he carried out the attack,
so he could not stand trial.

Kobili Traore had consumed cannabis, which induced 
a temporary state of psychosis, the government ruled,
the technical French term Bouffée délirante (BD).
He’d even proclaimed, “I killed the Shaitan!”

It made me wonder what the French was
for the protesters’ slogan.
I went to Google Translate and typed it in,
but  “fumer un et se défoncer, fumer dix et descender”
didn’t strike me as idiomatic enough.
I wish they’d shown a photograph,
but this was radio, after all. 

Königin der Nacht

I outlived them both,
but that doesn’t mean
I feel vindicated or triumphant.

Ludwig dragged my name through the Austrian mud,
calling me “an extremely depraved person,”
adding “Johanna’s evil, malevolent and treacherous,”
hinting I’d killed his brother, my husband.
He was always so superior,
the sanctimonious Ludwig van Beethoven.
“Never, never will you find me dishonourable,”
he declared, and yet,
he drove my son to suicide, didn’t he?

Thank goodness Karl failed at that, too.
He didn’t make Ludwig’s life easy, it’s true,
after Ludwig stole my son from me,
running away at twelve, fleeing home to his mama;
expelled from school after school;
abusing Ludwig’s servants, stealing money.

True, Karl stayed with his uncle
when Ludwig was dying, but why not?
He inherited Ludwig’s entire estate!

After a brief military career,
Karl married, failed at business,
but lived comfortably off his inheritances,
tossing me and Ludovika, his illegitimate
half-sister, born out of wedlock
the year I lost Karl in court, the occasional crumbs.
Still, I wept when Karl died,
leaving four daughters and a son of his own,
What mother wouldn’t?
But it still angers me he named the boy Ludwig.

Charles Rammelkamp is Prose Editor for BrickHouse Books in Baltimore. A full-length collection of poems, The Field of Happiness, will be published in 2022 by Kelsay Books.