Charles Rammelkamp: Nobody Really Knows
Photo: Joanna C. Valente

Photo: Joanna C. Valente

Ringside Seat


The longer I live, the more I realize

nobody really knows anyone.


My sister-in-law had a ringside seat

to my brother’s three-year battle with cancer,

round after round of chemotherapy,

slugging it out over opiod dependence,

trading jabs with the insurance companies, endless

phone calls with faceless bureaucrats,

down on the mat with emergency room crises.


The oncologists acted as the refs,

who won which round,

who got how many points.

“Don’t worry about the future.

You’ve got to get there first.”


Two years after he died

on the other side of the country,

the cancer that started in his lungs

finishing him off in the spine,

I sent her an email marking the day,

aiming to share comfort.


When she didn’t reply,

I wondered if I had the right email address,

but then a few days later she explained

she’d just been in the hospital herself,

some sort of lymphatic issue,

possibly related to her own bout with cancer,

a dozen years earlier.

She’d beaten it then,

if you ever really do beat cancer.

One thing’s for sure,

you never beat death.


Charles Rammelkamp is Prose Editor for BrickHouse Books in Baltimore and Reviews Editor for The Adirondack Review. A chapbook of poems, Jack Tar’s Lady Parts, is available from Main Street Rag Publishing. Another poetry chapbook, Me and Sal Paradise, was recently published by FutureCycle Press. An e-chapbook has also recently been published online Time Is on My Side (yes it is)