“Maneuvering Through Existence” by Charles Rammelkamp

When Henry Heimlich of the Jewish Hospital of Cincinnati
published his famous procedure in Emergency Medicine in 1974,
who knew he’d become a household name?
Or at least his Maneuver, approved by the AMA in 1975
and included in most CPR and First Aid classes,
and that deaths from choking on food,
the sixth leading cause of accidental death,
would plummet as a result?
Henry would become a national hero.

Just so we wonder about death and its causes.
Cancer, heart disease, diabetes, AIDS, car wrecks, gun violence….
(Who by fire and who by water?
Who by sword and who by beast?
Who by hunger and who by thirst?
Who by, etc. as the Unetaneh Tokef tells us on Yom Kippur.)

And underlying those, what are the reasons?
Smoking, drinking, drugs, promiscuous sex, carelessness, diet.
Genetic predisposition.
Anger, jealousy, rage, grief.

Is the ideal death from old age?
Passing away painlessly in your sleep
(and how peacefully passive “passing away”)?
Or is there something beneath this, too?
Heart, lungs, liver. Genes. DNA.

What about being struck by lightning?
Pure dumb luck or carelessness?
(He shouldn’t have been standing
under that tree during a thunderstorm!)

The subtext seems to be it could have been prevented.
But can it really be postponed in perpetuity?
Dodge death forever, cryogenics be damned?
Ain’t no such maneuver, Henry.



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). Another chapbook, Mortal Coil, is forthcoming from Clare Songbirds Publishing.

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