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Charles Rammelkamp, one poem


Tet Memories We drove up from Da Nang

to celebrate Tet that year with ông nội,

my grandfather a regional official

living in a government mansion in Hue.

I was ten years old.

The Lunar New Year came on January 30.

I remember my friend Binh Nguyen

telling me it was the day thirty-five years before

that Hitler rose to power in Germany,

a fact he’d learned in school.

That night we heard holiday firecrackers,

really gunfire from the communists.

Later that night, around two in the morning,

they kicked in the door,

barked orders I couldn’t understand

in their unfamiliar northern accents,

herded us to the basement,

forced ông nội to his knees,

led him away like a dog.

Two nights later my mother called me

to the basement window.

We saw ông nội among the prisoners,

elbows tied behind his back.

The communists marched them away,

the last time I ever saw my grandfather.

Months later my mother went back to Hue.

We’d returned to Da Nang,

the Americans having freed us

from our captors, moved us

to Hue University,

near the Perfume River, the campus

now a refugee center.

My mother identified grandfather’s remains

among the piles of dead bodies

removed from the mass grave.

 

Charles Rammelkamp is Prose Editor for BrickHouse Books in Baltimore, where he lives. His most recent books include American Zeitgeist (Apprentice House), which deals with the populist politician, William Jennings Bryan and a chapbook, Jack Tar’s Lady Parts, by Main Street Rag Press. Another poetry chapbook, Me and Sal Paradise, is forthcoming from FutureCycle Press.


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