Monday, August 10, 2015

Charles Rammelkamp


Once the star halfback in high school,
Duncan came back from Vietnam
a changed man: slept in a hammock
he’d strung up in the woods by the river,
cut his own hair with a knife,
the locks uneven clumps and patches,
smoked weed all day long.

With Duncan, everything was "boo coo"—
Vietnamese slang for "beaucoup"
he'd picked up in-country.
He told everybody he smoked boo coo dope,
liked to get boo coo high,
had gotten boo coo Asian pussy in Nam.
Boo coo this, boo coo that.

His girlfriend, Linda Swanson, head cheerleader
when they were in school, who'd vowed
to wait for him until he got out of service,
dumped him after one date when he returned,
soon engaged to dull George Shedd,
assistant manager at the A&P grocery.

"Sad what happened to Dunc," she sighed,
wiping an invisible tear from her cheek,
but that’s all she’d say.

One morning we woke to the news
Duncan, dressed in camo, set fire
to Shedd's rancher out on 27-Mile Road
while he and Linda were inside having supper,
beat George half to death with a baseball bat,
begged Linda on his knees to take him back,
shot himself in the side of the head
when all she could do was cry,
shake her head back and forth—
no, no, no—
her long blond hair whipping like snakes.

Charles reads "Boo Coo":

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Charles confesses: "There were many reasons I did not want to go to Vietnam, chief among them my opposition to American involvement in the first place. As Muhammad Ali famously said, 'I ain't got no quarrel with the Viet Cong.' It was somebody else's civil war. We had no business being there, 'Communist containment' or not. But I also got a first-hand view of how it ruined the lives of many more than one veteran—as all wars do. And for what?"

CHARLES RAMMELKAMP lives in Baltimore. His latest books are Fusen Bakudan (2012) from Time Being Books, Mixed Signals (2014) from Finishing Line Press, and Mata Hari: Eye of the Day (2015) from Apprentice House. He edits an online literary journal called The Potomac.

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