Two poems by Charles Rammelkamp

The Ballad of Tusko
 
The CIA’s MK-Ultra,
Sub-project forty-three,
Funded Doctor Lewis “Jolly” West,
A psychologist in OKC.
 
West experimented with “dissociative states”
To blow the human mind,
Sensory deprivation, LSD,
And drugs of the psychoactive kind.
 
So on one August morning
In the year nineteen sixty-two,
West had made arrangements
With the director of the Lincoln Park Zoo.
 
He shot a lethal dart
Into the elephant Tusko’s side,
300,000 micrograms of LSD.
Within two hours Tusko died.
 
But after only a couple of minutes,
Tusko had sunk down to his knees,
Defecated all over his cage
And for over an hour continuously seized.
 
Jolly later ran a clinic
In the famous Haight-Ashbury,
Monitoring the reactions of volunteers
To whom he’d given LSD.
 
Jolly would spend over five million dollars
He’d get from the CIA,
Including his time as department head
Of Psychiatry at UCLA.
 
The morality of scientific experiments
Is not for me to decide,
But of all of Jolly’s research trials,
The saddest was the way that Tusko died.




A Sonnet Could Be This Beautiful
 
We begin work each morning with a cup,
My colleague has a coffee; I have tea.
Tom's a former jarhead, supports the troops,
Death before dishonor and Semper Fi.
Weekends he races cars with his buddies,
Thinks art and theater are for queers;
Likes to think he's suave and cultured, but he
Feigns boredom with poetry, and he sneers
At verse. But he enthused about an eight
Cylinder engine - runs on only six;
Like the work of a literary great.
So odd the achievements a person picks.
But poetry  taught me to be polite:
I murmured amazement though not delight.

Charles Rammelkamp is Prose Editor for BrickHouse Books in Baltimore and Reviews Editor for The Adirondack Review. A collection of poems about Rasputin and Russia in the 20th century, Catastroika, was published in May by Apprentice House, and another, Ugler Lee, has just been published by Kelsay Books.

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