Monday, October 7, 2013

Charles Rammelkamp


The day Sadat died,
I was halfway across the world
in Watertown, Mass., having rented a room
in a house with two other guys
a couple of blocks away
from a Greek Orthodox church
and Arax, the Armenian market.
Closing in on thirty–not sure
if I was chasing age or age was chasing me–
unemployed, another novel manuscript
just rejected by another publisher,
I felt as beat and alienated
as Lee Harvey Oswald.

LENNON LIVES! somebody's spray-painted
in billboard-sized letters
across a fence on Mount Auburn Street.
I passed it every day on the 71 bus
from Harvard Square to Watertown.
He’d been gunned down in New York
less than a year before.

The following spring, on the same bus
I would read the Boston Herald tabloid headline:
the ongoing account about the trial
of Reagan’s would-be assassin.

My girlfriend saw Sadat's entourage
pass the café in Cairo
where she and her colleagues–
all studying Arabic abroad
for a year at the American University–
sat drinking tea,
Sadat in the victory parade
commemorating Egypt's crossing of the Suez Canal.
In less than an hour he'd be dead.

Charles reads "The Day Sadat Died":

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Charles confesses: "After living with my future wife for a year in Ann Arbor, where she was in graduate school in Near East Studies, and I was writing one questionable novel after another, she went overseas for a year and I returned to Boston, where we'd met. While I reassessed my life and made my way as a Kelly Girl and continued to write, she was in Cairo. It was the year Sadat was assassinated, and she saw his motorcade go past that day, October 6, 1981, on its way to the parade ground where an assassination squad consisting of members of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad awaited him, having obtained a fatwa from Omar Abdel-Rahman approving the assassination . She returned to the states the next summer, around the time John Hinckley was found not guilty in the Reagan assassination attempt for reasons of insanity (June 21, 1982, for the record), and we were married the following February."

CHARLES RAMMELKAMP lives in Baltimore. His latest book, Fusen Bakudan ("Balloon Bombs" in Japanese), was published in 2012 by Time Being Books. It’s a collection of monologues involving missionaries in a leper colony in Vietnam during the war. Charles edits an online literary journal called The Potomac.

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