Monday, March 21, 2016

Charles Rammelkamp


Lynette and the kids lived
in a public housing unit,
electrical sockets hanging from exposed wires
as in some demented sci-fi film,
windows loose in their frames,
leaking cold air like sieves,
a broken stove that sparked and smoked.

But when Lynette called for repairs,
the workmen who came grabbed her breasts,
demanded she suck their dicks
if she wanted the repairs.
Cocky young guys in cheap uniforms.

She complained to the housing authority staff,
but they only promised
to "look into the matter."
Went on like that for three years.
Finally Lynette and some other women
who’d suffered the same harassment
filed a class-action lawsuit under the Fair Housing Act,
HUD and the city housing authority forced
to shell out eight million,
fifty maintenance workers losing their jobs.

"Justice, right?" Lynette told the reporter,
without a trace of triumph.

Charles reads "Fair Housing":

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Charles confesses: "This poem is based on a shocking story I read in the local newspaper, but the problem, apparently, is not just local. Similar abuses and lawsuits have occurred in several cities in the United States. Shocked, I say, but not really surprised by the abuse of what power the workers had over the tenants in the bleak city housing units."

CHARLES RAMMELKAMP edits The Potomac, an online literary journal, and is the Prose Editor for BrickHouse Books in Baltimore, Maryland, where he lives. His latest book is a poetry collection called Mata Hari: Eye of the Day, published by Apprentice House (Loyola University).

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