Charles Rammelkamp

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In the house of the ladyArtwork by Gene McCormick
I’d seen on television –
a friend of the parents of a friend –
I discovered the beige plastic
diaphragm case on a bathroom shelf
tucked beneath fluffy blue towels.

I longed to snap it open,
gaze at the rubbery clam inside,
maybe poke it with my finger,
touch the rubber cup
that found its way (how often?)
inside the lady
I’d seen on television,
reading the weather forecast
from a teleprompter off-screen. 

When she gestured to the map behind her,
it really wasn’t there,
my friend told me,
having toured the TV studio;
it was a trick of projection –
he planned to be a movie producer
after college; I didn’t
know what I wanted to do.

I wanted just to know
I had touched it
the next time I saw her
on the evening news,
flirting with the sports guy,
the wavy-haired news anchor.

But call it a tribal taboo –
not really an aversion –
it just seemed wrong to do,
an invasion, an assault,
a violation more elemental
than mere hygiene.

I resisted the impulse –
flushed the toilet,
washed my hands,
left the bathroom.


Perfection Can Dangle from Your Groin

The e-mail promised a deal
on erectile dysfunction drugs.Artwork by Gene McCormick
I remembered the girl

I met in a bar in college,
Drunk, we stumbled
to my Beacon Hill apartment.

“The nurses said my father’s prostrate
is the biggest one they’ve ever seen,”
Mary bragged as we lay on my mattress.

I didn’t know what to say.
Should I correct her word usage?
Express sympathy?

Was her father getting up at night,
straining to urinate, dribbling,
leaking, spotting his pants?

But she was clearly proud,
just as she was proud of the vampire wings
tattooed between her shoulder blades,

something I only noticed
when I woke beside her next morning,
content, perfection dangling from my groin.


Charles Rammelkamp’s latest book, Fusen Bakudan (“Balloon Bombs” in Japanese), was published in 2012 by Time Being Books. It’s a collection of poems about missionaries in a leper colony in Vietnam during the war. He also edits an online literary journal called The Potomac - and is a fiction editor for The Pedestal