two poems



The Afterlife


For years after Grover died,

the cash register at the supermarket

spat coupons, like lottery tickets,

for Fancy Feast, Friskies, 9Lives

and other cat food brands,

along with my receipt,

having tracked my purchases

through my “bonus card,”

the ID that saves me money

on various store items

(“You’ve saved $256,00 this year!”

the cash register tape declares,

triumphant as a Final Four basketball team).


It was kind of gratifying, though,

to be identified as a cat owner,

a member of the club,

Grover still part of my life,

as if purring away in kitty heaven.


It reminded me of the email

I received from my mother

three months after she died,

somebody having highjacked her account,

spammed her address book

with a promo for a vitamin supplement

meant to prolong our lives.

What a shock to see Mom’s name

highlighted in an unopened email,

as if all I had to do

was press REPLY

to talk to her again.








Public Service Initiative


“We’re from the Mayor’s Office

of Emergency Management,” I smiled

at the elderly black lady

cowering behind the front door

of the dilapidated rowhouse

in the rundown urban neighborhood

that I’d just pounded like a warning.

“We’re here to see if you need

any smoke detectors or energy efficient

light bulbs, or  if you need your blood

pressure taken, or anything.”


Volunteer work with the fire department,

health officials, public works and cops.

Yet people had warned me:

wear your Kevlar vest

when you’re in that neighborhood!


But it seemed I was the predator,

the threatening outsider,

not some gang member or hoodlum

come to prey on the weak.


Hesitant, not sure whether to trust

the lime-green vest and ballcap

with something about the city

in white block letters on the visor,

the old woman weighed the alternatives

like blindfolded Justice: free services

or an intrusive government busybody –

there to fine, threaten, or scold?


“We fine,” the quavering voice

finally announced.

“We don’t need nothin’.”


I nodded and left, feeling like a fraud.



Charles Rammelkamp is Prose Editor for BrickHouse Books in Baltimore, where he lives with his wife Abby. He contributes a monthly book review to North of Oxford and is a frequent reviewer for The Lake, London Grip, Misfit Magazine and The Compulsive Reader. A poetry chapbook, Mortal Coil, was published in 2021 by Clare Songbirds Publishing and another, Sparring Partners, by Moonstone Press. A full-length collection, The Field of Happiness, will be published in 2022 by Kelsay Books.