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We called Garth “The Priest,”

and even though it was meant to be ironic,

the rest of us, swaddled in our student deferments

like infants shielded from danger,

felt a grudging respect for the guy:

he’d put his opposition to war on the line,

a Conscientious Objector,

working with retarded kids

when he wasn’t sitting in a classroom

like the rest of us.

Face it, he just looked like any other hippie,

long hair, jeans, sideburns like scythes

mowing down his cheekbones,

smoked dope with the rest of us.

But if you tried to trip him up,

hint at the fast one he’d pulled off,

get him to admit it was just a way

to wriggle off the hook,

he’d set the record straight,

though never defensive about it.

“Like Ali said,” the Priest mused, shrugging,

passing the joint,

“I ain’t got no quarrel

with no Viet Cong.”



“Beside him she was white and pale. ‘The dead come back. Death isn't the end.’

‘Let's be optimistic,’ he said, ‘and assume that's bullshit.’” – Denis Johnson, Nobody Move

“You’re going straight to hell,” she groaned, disgusted,

her voice sad with the knowledge.

He’d taken her pills from

the medicine cabinet,

the change from her purse.

“You’re going straight to hell.”

What could he say?

She was his mother, after all,

maybe not the best one in the world,

but she’d given birth to him,

fed and clothed him,

cared for him when he was sick.



my wife answers the lady at Registration, and it sounds like a tongue-twister. She sells seashells. Here as her emotional support animal, I whip out my Kindle, settle in for the long wait. Abby produces health insurance cards, Medicare, Blue Cross, recites phone numbers, email addresses. We’re shuffled on to the next department, the Breast Center, another waiting room,

more forms, same cushioned wooden chairs.

I remember Carol, the divorcee neighbor

from twenty years ago, her sweatshirt

proclaiming Precious Cargo on the front.

I think of The Sopranos’ Bada Bing, nightclubs where breasts jiggle like ornaments, women seductresses instead of patients.

Rammelkamp for a tramp stamp, I muse,

picturing two tattooed titties:

then wonder at where my mind has wandered.


Charles Rammelkamp is Prose Editor for BrickHouse Books in Baltimore, where he lives with his wife Abby. He contributes a monthly book review to North of Oxford and is a frequent reviewer for The Lake, London Grip, Misfit Magazine and The Compulsive Reader. A poetry chapbook, Mortal Coil, was published in 2021 by Clare Songbirds Publishing and another, Sparring Partners, by Moonstone Press. A full-length collection, The Field of Happiness, was published in 2022 by Kelsay Books.

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