Charles Rammelkamp

Zen Riddle

After my credit card was canceled
for attempted identity theft –
“Your card’s been compromised,”
the euphemistic explanation –
a replacement number issued,
I had to call various places –
EZ Pass, public radio, the power company, etc. –
to update my information
for the periodic account charges,
which was when I encountered security questions
whose answers I didn’t necessarily remember.

The name of the elementary school I attended,
the name of my first pet,
my favorite rock and roll band.
The name of my favorite nephew?
How many had I had when I was asked?
What name did I say? Eli? Henry?

“What is the name of the nearest city
in which a sibling of yours lives?”

When did I answer that one?
“Both of my brothers are dead,”
I told the operator,
while “Nirvana,” “Heaven,” “Hell”
all shuffled through my head.

“But maybe the answer’s Los Angeles.”
David died in Albuquerque,
eleven years ahead of Bob,
closer to Baltimore than LA,
but could this security question
really be that old?

What is the sound of one hand clapping?
Say it to exorcise it.
Say “I love you” so you can feel the doubt.


Feel Like I’m Fixin’ to Die

With my wife and her two sisters
at the Pittsburgh Creative Arts Festival,
the three of us having dinner
at The Smiling Banana Leaf, a Thai restaurant,
I recall my father
sitting with my mother and two aunts,
talking about widowhood,
my uncle Jim having died
the previous spring.

How like a survivor my father felt,
a guy washed up on a beach
after a tragic shipwreck.
You could see it
in the slump of his shoulders,
the slack of his jaw,
the melancholy relief in his eyes,
alone among three sturdy women
who would outlive him
by almost two decades.


Charles Rammelkamp

While I deliberately sit and meditate for twenty or thirty minutes regularly, I like to think I have cultivated a "meditative attitude" that gives me a sense of perspective and an inclination toward kindness. In practice, this is not always the case, but it's certainly aspirational.

Charles Rammelkamp is Prose Editor for BrickHouse Books in Baltimore, where he lives, and Reviews Editor for Adirondack Review. His most recent books include American Zeitgeist (Apprentice House) and a chapbook, Jack Tar’s Lady Parts (Main Street Rag Press). Another poetry chapbook, Me and Sal Paradise, is forthcoming from FutureCycle Press.

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