Monday, March 3, 2014

Charles Rammelkamp


A killer in her eyes and Jesus in her mouth:
a lethal combination adding up
to self-righteous homicide,
revenge masked as retribution,
getting even in the name of God.

If I failed her,
would she vandalize my car?
Send her son to beat me up?
That six-foot teenage thug
with the shaved head and earring.

I felt like a minimum wage security guard
protecting property from ruthless brutes
when a SWAT team is needed,
risking my life for a couple bucks an hour.

I lack the proper missionary zeal,
the desire to improve their minds.
I just wanted her out of my life.

So I caved in, passed her,
telling myself at least she tried, when I knew she hadn't;
at least she handed in all the assignments—
most of them, anyway.

All she wanted was a certificate
to allow her to stick a thermometer
up a patient's ass,
measure his blood pressure,
coo soothing words.

This English class was just a requirement.
No matter how many times she repeats the course
she’ll never learn when to use a semicolon
or write a coherent sentence.

So why do I feel like such a fraud?

Charles reads "The Adjunct Professor's Lament":

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Charles confesses: "For ten years I was an adjunct in the English Department at Essex Community College in Baltimore. I only taught at night, when the campus was essentially deserted, just working people there for night school, drifting into the empty echoing Humanities building like the surreal creatures from Maurice Sendak's In the Night Kitchen. Mostly I taught English 101, composition and rhetoric, fifteen weeks of grammar lessons, writing essays, writing a research paper. Out of this experience I wrote a chapbook of poems, Go to Hell (named for the slogan on the visor of one of the students) and a collection of short stories, Castleman in the Academy. I have no regrets, but I sure don't miss it."

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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