POETRY by Charles Rampp

rush creek with carp

after i got the car and mother
moved back to nearby town
and found a fourth husband,
she wanted me to come to supper,
her brand of chili soup.
it was spring and i hadn’t seen her
since grandpa’s funeral
three years past–the undertaker
was paid now. i had some savings–
a new experience. she wanted me
to be a partner in the diner
her new man had bought for her–
seven hundred would do it,
and i had nine. her husband
wanted to go fishing and we did,
catching nothing in a warm afternoon
except the sight of carp lazing along
just under the surface of a sunlit creek,
their dark, prehistoric scales
like armor plate from the paleozoic,
easily cruising, unafraid. they seemed
to move without pattern or reason,
making lovely random designs–
not bottom feeders today, excursionists.
old strata of life lifted
and i silently thanked her once again
that she hadn’t left me in a dumpster
when her time had come, shelterless
in the big city. the nuns took her in then–
and soon, me too. at dark we ate chili
with hiho crackers and i became a partner,
and on the way home the headlights
of the old ford shorted out, and i coasted
quietly down the tree-lined
two-laned road in full moonlight,
with the carp, graceful
in old clear waters,
uncovering life’s depositions
from what seemed now an ancient past.

adolescence

somehow he missed adolescence,
stepping timidly into a man’s job–
wearing adult male roles warily,
with little comprehension
and few rewards.
responsibilities came
and he handed over his paycheck
unquestioningly, taking
a few dollars back.
child-like, he learned skills
of the tile mill, became
the best kiln fireman,
willing to work overtime,
double shifts. when he started
saving for a car, the old women cried,
and when he brought home
that ‘forty ford two-door
and got a license quickly,
they wouldn’t ride. he drove
only to work, and sometimes
with older, tileyard friends
to baseball games–
back home safe at night,
as they sat waiting on the front porch,
fanning with folded up newspapers.

Charles Rampp is a 98-year-old retired Lutheran pastor who now lives on the Blue Ridge. He has published poems and short stories in the United States, Canada, and Australia. Rampp notes that during the time in which “Rush Creek” is set–“true happenings”–that he served as football coach and principal of the local high school.