Bindweed Issue 8 is now available in print

Despite personal setbacks in 2018, Joseph Robert and I have managed to get Bindweed Magazine Issue 8 into print almost a year after the online publication schedule finished in April last year.


It’s finally here. Hurray!
The past year has been a whirlwind of going back to the dayjob after maternity leave, coping with a sick baby, moving house (again!) and a family bereavement on top of all that. The setbacks delayed our publication schedule, but true to the nature of the convolvulus weed itself, Bindweed Magazine has managed to bounce back from the brink…essentially I have kept our little zine going through tough times. So thanks for bearing with me and here we go:


Print copy via Lulu Publishing


There’s a 20% discount with the code TWENTY19 (case sensitive) before February 7th, I believe.


Hope you enjoy it!


Leilanie Stewart 🍃

Charles Rammelkamp – 2 poems

Now You’re the Metaphor



As a kid in Potawatomi Rapids,

I thrilled to the Memorial Day parade,

always held on May 30 in those days,

even when it wasn’t on a Monday,

that first taste of summer in Michigan,

a late winter snowstorm less and less likely,

the imminent end of the school year.



White-whiskered Mister Engstrom,

veteran of the Spanish-American War,

rumored to have been a Rough Rider himself,

borne down Erie Street in a gas-guzzling convertible,

behind the high school marching band,

waving, looking a little vague, bewildered.

He was time itself; he was age personified.



Today my Medicare insurance kicks in.

In a week I will be sixty-five.




Breaking My Heart



“Don’t go breakin’ my heart,”

Elton John sings to Kiki Dee.

And what a funny metaphor for emotions,

I think, the heart. Why the heart?

All that love and hurt and betrayal and jealousy,

all that longing and desire, all that

passion, sentiment, whatever else.



And that funny red balloon shape,

where did that come from?

Silphium, a possible contraceptive,

represented in that shape, 6thcentury BCE,

carrots, with their estrogenic properties.

The red scallop with the dent in the base,

the point a stabbing downward dagger,

early fourteenth century, though

the heart as symbol of romantic love

even earlier, 1250, only then

it looked more like a pine cone.



The heart we all know from Valentine’s Day,

the one on playing cards

since late fifteenth century,

like a spread vulva, buttocks, the pubic mound:

isn’t that the one that breaks?

The one that gets pierced by Cupid’s arrow?

Cupid – from the Latin for “desire”:

He didn’t actually shoot for the heart.

Any direct hit would do.



“I won’t go breakin’ your heart,”

Kiki sings back to Elton.






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.

Charles Rammelkamp – Fiction

Lee Harvey Oswald

 Castleman knew at once that the pounding on the front door was Shelley Pickett. It was loud and uncontrolled, erratic. It was crazy.

“Is that Shelley?” he called from the kitchen where he was chopping onions for a lentil soup.

Jodie, in the dining room, went to the front door.

“Go away, Shelley!” she shouted, as if to a dog that was rooting around in the garbage or tearing up a shoe. “Go away now! I will call the police if you do not leave now!

Jodie came back into the kitchen. Castleman had peeled several cloves of garlic from a bulb and had begun mincing them. It wasn’t fear that kept him from going to the front door so much as denial. It had only been a week before that Shelley had come to their house while he and Jodie were sitting on the front porch reading the newspaper. She’d stumbled on the steps and torn a hole in her jeans. They’d given her some warm water and a towel to clean the wound, and Jodie had put a bandaid on the scraped knee before Shelley left, muttering about killing herself. Now she was back. Apparently she thought it was okay to come to their house.

“She’s gone?”

“She saw me calling 911 on my cellphone. I canceled the call when she started to leave.” But Jodie went back to the living room to check.

“Roger! She’s still here!”

“Oh, fuck,” Castleman muttered, more discouraged than anything else. Why was she doing this? Why was she acting this way?

Just then Jodie’s cellphone rang. “Yes, I did,” she said. “Thank you for calling back. There’s a woman who’s been stalking my husband for several months, and she’s out on our front porch right now and she won’t go away.”

Castleman swept the minced garlic and chopped onions into a pan and turned his attention to the carrots and red pepper.

“She’s wearing a jean jacket, pants with holes torn in the knees and –” Jodie went back into the living room. “And a red flannel shirt and sneakers. Probably between fifty and sixty.” Jodie gave their address to the dispatcher, who assured her a patrol car would be on its way.

Castleman finished cutting the carrots and peppers, added them to the pan with the onions and garlic and sautéed them in oil for a few minutes before adding a can of diced tomatoes and the lentils, a container of vegetable stock, salt and pepper. He wiped his hands and joined Jodie in the living room. She was looking out through the window, from a distance where Shelley could not look in and see her.

“I wish they’d hurry up and get here,” she fretted.

Castleman looked beyond her at Shelley out on the sidewalk. She was consulting her own cellphone. Then the landline began to ring.

“God damn her,” he sighed. “Why is she doing this?”

“OK, they’re here,” Jodie announced a minute later. Two officers, one a bald white man, the other a squat African-American, had arrived in separate cars, no doubt responding individually to the call.

Through the window Roger and Jodie watched the officers talking to Shelley. They saw her handing over a photo ID and the officers writing on their notepads. The white guy walked away, talking into his radio, reporting facts, gathering information.

“Should we go out there?” Jodie asked Roger.

“I don’t know. Maybe not. But maybe we should. I don’t know. What do you think?”

“Maybe we better go out there.” Jodie opened the door and they stepped out onto the porch.

“Roger!” Shelley called. “Oh thank God you’re here! I just want you to know how grateful I am to you for reading my poetry! You’ve really made me such a better writer!”

“But Shelley, I’m not reading your poetry! I’ve told you that again and again!” Castleman kept his voice neutral, if emphatic, meanwhile rolling his eyes at the officers, shrugging his shoulders, as if to say, See what I’m dealing with? You simply cannot reason with this person.

“But you have to!” Shelley shrieked. “I can’t do this by myself! Ineed you! Please, please, please, please,please help me!”

Castleman shrugged again and shook his head at the policemen. What more could he say?

“I just wanted to tell you Doctor Sheridan has adjusted my medications,” Shelley went on in that imploring voice. “I promise not to pester you. I swear I won’t. I just wanted you to know. Thank you so much for reading my poems, Roger, I am so grateful, I –”

“Shelley, Roger is not reading your poems. He is not working with you on your manuscript. Just go away. Now.” Jodie’s was the voice of sensibility. Any rational person would have heeded her.

Castleman went back inside to attend to the lentil soup, simmering on the stove. This did not seem cowardly so much as simply expedient. He and Shelley could come to no resolution. He stirred the soup, tasted it, added a bit more pepper.

A few minutes later Jodie called to him. “Roger! Could you come out here?”

“She’s gone?” Castleman did not see Shelley on the sidewalk. He glanced at the patrol cars to see if she were in the backseat.

“She finally walked away, toward the park.”

“OK, I’ve got another call to respond to,” the bald white cop said to his partner, without looking at the Castlemans. He got into his car and drove away.

The officer who’d stayed behind, Sergeant Lipscomb, looked to be in his thirties. He had a sympathetic face. Jodie told him she was glad they’d been gentle with Shelley.

“It’s not her fault,” she said. “She’s just – crazy.”

“You still have to protect your property,” Lipscomb said, but he acknowledged the implied compliment.

Castleman told him the story of his acquaintance with Shelley, how she’d been in a creative writing class he’d taught at a local community college “back in the last century.”  Almost twenty years ago. “She lives in the neighborhood, just a few blocks away. She’s on SSI. From time to time she’s hospitalized.” He shrugged. “I don’t think she’s violent, but….”

“She doesn’t have a record for violent behavior,” Sergeant Lipscomb assured.

“She doesn’t?” Roger and Jodie looked at each other with relief. He wondered if the officer thought this was a sexual affair gone wrong. He imagined there were a lot more cases like that than somebody wanting her poetry read.

“But she’s crossed a line here,” Lipscomb repeated, “and you have to protect your home.” He handed a notecard to Castleman with numbers and dates and addresses on it. “If she continues to bother you, go to the Court Commissioner’s office downtown and file a restraining order. Bring this information with you. I wrote the address on the card.”

After the policeman left, Roger and Jodie went back onto the porch.

“Well, no history of violence, at least,” Castleman shrugged, and Jodie agreed it was a good sign.

Still, Castleman thought, lingering outside while Jodie went back into the house, there’s always the first time, isn’t there? He tried to remember if the kid who killed John Lennon on the sidewalk in front of his home – the Dakota – had had a history of violence but couldn’t remember. Like Shelley, hehad attempted suicide and went to shrinks for depression. He’d approached Lennon for an autograph and then shot him in the back five times. Not that Castleman was John Lennon, though in Shelley’s eyes he seemed to be some sort of rock star, the man who could make sense out of her poetry, or whatever it was she had in mind – if she had any clear idea in her mind at all. Chapman had blamed it all on literature himself – The Catcher in the Rye.

Castleman looked again at the card Sergeant Lipscomb had given him. The address of the court commissioner where he’d file a complaint, Shelley’s ID – she did not have a driver’s license but this was a government-issued ID number. Castleman recalled that she had driven a car back when she was a student. He supposed she was deemed no longer capable of driving since then. There was also a date, 11-22-63 – Shelley’s date of birth. The same day JFK had been assassinated.

Castleman went back inside to look at the soup. He picked up the telephone on his way and dialed for the messages. She’d left three, all while she’d been standing on the sidewalk. “Hello, Roger? You’ve got to help me! Please! I’m not –” Castleman pressed the delete button. “Roger, I am not leaving until you –” Again he pressed the delete key. The third began, “I could kill you.” This time he pressed save.

“Any messages besides hers?” Jodie called from the kitchen. “Was she ranting again?”

“I didn’t really listen to any of them,” Castleman told his wife.




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.


Charles Rammelkamp – 6 poems

Für Paloma


My granddaughter’s first birthday,

the final day we’d be caring for her

before she started daycare with kids her own age –

Mozart’s birthday, too, I heard on the radio.


She knew she was the center of attention

when her mother served a candled cake,

presented her with the gifts,

but of course no concept yet of age.


I’d gotten her a music box in the shape of a grand piano,

a ballerina spinning around on top, on a magnet,

while the toy played a tinny version of FürElise,

Beethoven’s 1810 composition

for Therese Malfatti von Rohrenbach zu Dezza,

to whom, nearly deaf by that time, he proposed,

but she turned him down.


The ballerina spun round and round.

Paloma grabbed it from the magnet,

put it back on, took it off, put it back on…


I wonder if Beethoven felt as blue as I do now,

buried under an avalanche of the awareness of age,

knowing this babysitting gig’s over,

and Monday Paloma will be going somewhere else.





If two men are fighting and the wife of one of them comes to rescue her husband from his assailant, and she reaches out and seizes him by his genitals, you shall cut off her hand. Show her no pity.” Deuteronomy 25:11-12

The proscription in Deuteronomy

one verse before the Shabbat Purim maftir,

which is all about Amalek fighting dirty against the Hebrews,

made me think of our neighbor,

Herman Polanski, who’d threatened my dad,

“I’ll spill your kike blood all over the street,”
when Dad had had the audacity

to build a garage on his own property,

protection against the harsh winters

in Potawatomi Rapids, Michigan.


Herm fumed and sputtered

how it blocked his view of the rapids,

reducing the value of his own property,

diminished his pleasure.

Dad had advised him of his plans,

but Herm seemed to think

my father should bend his knee to him.


Then when Herm’s wife Mary apologized to my dad,

embarrassed by her husband’s churlish behavior,

excusing him for “just having a bad day,”

Herm accused her of an affair with my father.

“You’ve been fucking him all along,” he thundered,

“You just want to suck that circumcised cock.”


To this day I can’t swing a grogger

whenever Haman’s name’s read

during the recitation of the Megillah,

or nibble a hamentashen,

without remembering Mary Polanski

driving off in the family’s Buick

to her sister’s home in Kalamazoo,

leaving Herm at the curb, shaking his fist.   




Sightseeing in St. Petersburg


The Hermitage? Are you kidding?

The Winter Palace was overwhelming,

but the modest MusEros on Ligovskiy Av.

was the high point.


Sure, we saw the Kolyvan Vase

in the west wing of the Old Hermitage,

largest vase in the world,

like a birdbath for pterodactyls,

after we’d already passed through

the Hall of Twenty Columns,

its amazing mosaic floor,

hundreds of thousands of cubed-tile tesserae;

over three million pieces of art altogether,

largest collection of paintings in the world,

founded by Catherine the Great in 1764, yes,

but the MusEros has Rasputin’s footlong dong

preserved in a glass jar,

severed from the mystic when he was murdered

a hundred years ago, in 1916.

They say just seeing it

can cure a man of impotence.


Did it work?

Maybe it was the exotic unfamiliar surroundings,

St. Petersburg so different from Davenport,

or maybe the aphrodisiac qualities of the vodka,

but when we got back to our room at the Pushka Inn,

I hadn’t felt such ardor for Alexandra

since the steamy backseat of my parents’ car

after football games on crisp Iowa evenings –

my wife’s name the same as the Romanov tsarina

rumored to be Rasputin’s lover.




Pitchman’s Melody


I first met Jerry working the cash register

like a pianist playing a plaintive note

in the record department of the Harvard COOP, 1976,

sporting my green-and-yellow John Deere stocking cap.

He fixed me with that Ancient Mariner stare

I only later learned came from the meds.

Amused: he hailed from Iowa, familiar with tractors.


Two years later we’re both contractors

for an editorial outfit at the Department of Transportation,

Kendall Square, Cambridge.

Paunchy, puffs of whiskers exploding

like tumbleweeds from chin and cheeks

where he’d missed with the razor,

ratty old college professor’s corduroy sports coat –

and those eyes, like Bela Lugosi’s.


How was I to know he was manic-depressive?

One day he didn’t come to work.

Nobody saw him for weeks.

When he returned, fifty pounds heavier,

we learned he’d been hospitalized.

Co-workers avoided him like a leper;

conversations died when he approached.


But then he was on the radio,

a weak-signaled student-run show, true,

but he sounded so erudite, euphonious, sane

discussing his Ph.D. dissertation,

later a book: George Bernard Shaw,

Shaw’s criticism of Shakespeare,

his rage at the public fawning over the Bard

like star-struck girls: they wouldn’t know genius

if it spat in their eye.

“Shaw was both a word-musician,” Jerry chuckled,

“and a pitchman advertising his wares.”


I wondered years later,

when I learned about his death,

the body discovered after two days by his landlady,

if Jerry didn’t harbor similar resentments;

he could have been an academic superstar,

had he played his cards right,

at least head of the English department

in some little Midwest college,

if only he’d pitched his qualifications

like Ronald Reagan selling us GE appliances.




Bay State Road Blues


Upon listening to the Rolling Stones’ Blue and Lonesome for the first time.


Remember that time, forty years ago,

when we bought Hohner blues harp harmonicas,

got high on weed, wailed

what we thought inspired music

in that student studio apartment I had

near Kenmore Square, across the street

from the dormitory where they said

Joan Baez had lived?

Or was it Martin Luther King?

Or both?


We fancied ourselves Chicago bluesmen,

Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Jimmy Reed, Little Walter,

full of soul,

our next move to busk

on the Common or the Public Garden,

or on the Esplanade by the Charles River


until the girl in the apartment next to mine –

was her name Linda? –

pounded on the flimsy particleboard door,

threatened to call the landlord

if you don’t stop making that noise!





A Real Name


I’m not complaining,

“just saying,” as they say:

I have trouble with names already,

like remembering facts for History quizzes,

so when somebody changes theirs,

it feels like another unnecessary challenge.


My cousin Carol, after fifty years,

now goes by Carol Anne.

My daughter’s schoolmate, Sarah,

announced she wants to be known

by her middle name, Eugenie.

I try to remember these

when I address them,

not that they hold my memory against me.


I remember as a kid

discouraging people from calling me Chuck,

my fear that somehow

I could be labeled Chuck

for the rest of my life,

no say about it.

I even had to fend off charges

Charles was not my “real” name –

first name Julian, middle name Charles –

and I don’t need to tell you

the hell I’ve gone through with government forms.


A cousin named Julian got nicknamed

Juney at an early age,

spent  his entire life fighting it,

calling himself Jay,

not that it did a lot of good

with the cousins who’d known him

all his life.


So when my friend Karen told us

her daughter Jennifer was now Jeffrey,

I understood the stakes of identity

had just been raised a lot higher,

this kid’s self-conception a central struggle.

So, Chuck?  Not a crime at all, in the long view,

no matter how tenuous I might fear

my interpretation of my “self” might be.




Charles Rammelkamp edits The Potomac, an online literary magazine – The Potomac — A Journal of Poetry & Politics He is Prose editor for BrickHouse books in Baltimore, where he lives. His latest book is a collection of poems called MATA HARI: EYE OF THE DAY (Apprentice House, Loyola University) and another book, AMERICAN ZEITGEIST, has been accepted by Apprentice House as well.

Charles Rammelkamp – 3 poems 

City Man, 69. Arrested for Shoplifting 


The worst part?  Not my age in the headline, 

a grandfather, a criminal. 

Somebody who should know better.

A derelict. A bum.

No, the worst: having to explain

to my granddaughter Emily, ten years old,

no doubt mortified by the news. 


Not that it actually happened,

but close enough

to inspire the fantasy.


At the grocery store self-service checkout

I discovered I didn’t have the cash

to cover the things I’d put in my basket.

Lettuce, coffee, carton of juice:

these were necessary.

But the mango, the avocado?

I’d have to leave these behind.


But then, who’d ever know

if I just tossed them into my shopping bag?

Eagle-eyed peroxide blond Yvonne, that’s who.


“Oh, I’m sorry,” I stammered,

shamming the part of dotty old man,

scanning the sales slip in disbelief

as if reading stock market numbers.

“I was sure I paid for them.

Oh, well, I’ll have to leave them behind. Sorry!”


I left the store, head held high,

playing the part of a dignified senior citizen,

but feeling like a petty sneak thief.

This is the worst part.



The Perp 


At first, I thought he needed help.

Technology’s always daunting to these older folks,

used to cashiers, baggers, checkout lines.

The way he looked around, furtive,

like a kid needing a bathroom,

I was sure he’d pressed the wrong key,

bought something he didn’t want

and didn’t know how to undo the purchase.


But then he tossed the mango

into his World Wildlife Fund bag,

the panda on the side cuddly

as I figured this old guy to be,

and I just felt sorry for him,

probably living on a crummy little pension,

Social Security check barely covering his medicine,

squeezed like we all are in this economy

that favors the wealthy, scorned as a freeloader.

But I just couldn’t let him steal the mango.


“Sir,” I said, touching his arm

as he started walking away.


Then he got all defensive, pulled out

his receipt like some ancient Egyptian scroll,

pretended to look it over for the transaction…

well, maybe he was confused,

maybe he did think he’d paid for it.


But then he not only handed me the mango,

he gave me an avocado, too.

That’s when I knew.  Poor old guy.


Edouard Manet - 'luncheon on the grass'.

Edouard Manet – ‘luncheon on the grass’.

Le Déjeuner sur l’herbe – Manet


What are you looking at? Yes, you.

At Gustave and Ferdinand 

trussed up like fowl on a dinner table?

The swell of my breast? My bare haunch?

The smooth hip, buttock, thigh?

My clothing heaped beside me?

Yes, you, the intruder, the voyeur.

What are you staring at?


Even Eugenie lowers her eyes,

stepping from the pond

nimble as a dainty doe, discreet.


Certainly Gustave and Ferdinand,

despite being mummified in their clothes

behave as if nothing’s exceptional.

Even in that ridiculous turban,

gesturing to his brother-in-law,

Gustave’s as cool as the glade

in which we find ourselves

on this close afternoon at the start of summer.

Of course I should make myself comfortable.

This is a picnic, not a formal banquet –

though you’d never know it from their clothing!


Besides, nobody’s looking.

Except you.


Charles Rammelkamp edits The Potomac, an online literary magazine – The Potomac — A Journal of Poetry & Politics He is Prose editor for BrickHouse books in Baltimore, where he lives. His latest book is a collection of poems called MATA HARI: EYE OF THE DAY (Apprentice House, Loyola University) and another book, AMERICAN ZEITGEIST, has been accepted by Apprentice House as well.