“Charged with Manslaughter in Her Boyfriend’s Suicide” by Charles Rammelkamp

goading him to take his life, / Lola claimed it was free speech….

When Russ’ girlfriend texted,
“You just got to do it, babe.
You can’t stop to think about it,”
he finally caved in,
after months of resistance,
worn down by Lola’s insistence;
closed the garage door,
climbed into his truck,
switched on the ignition,
the cab gradually filling like a balloon
with carbon monoxide fumes.

Lola’d been badgering him for months
to kill himself, bringing it up
during sex, then continuing
with relentless text messages.
“We’ll be like Romeo and Juliet,” 
she’d written, the purr in her voice
plain as the letters on the cellphone screen.
“I’d love to be your Juliet, baby.”

But when Lola faced twenty years,
the prosecuting attorney 
citing over 50,000 text messages,
in which Russ and Lola talked about death,
she goading him to take his life,
Lola claimed it was free speech,
protected by the First Amendment.

Only, the jury wasn’t buying it.

Charles Rammelkamp is Prose Editor for BrickHouse Books in Baltimore. Two of his full-length collections have been published in 2020, Catastroika, from Apprentice House, and Ugler Lee from Kelsay BooksA poetry chapbook, Mortal Coil, is forthcoming from Clare Songbirds Publishing.

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