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Featured Poet: Rick Kearns

Raven Rabbit Ram is proud to publish three pieces from Rick Kearns. This is the first publication for "Killer Cold" and "Artists for Spare Change." "Doc and Ellen" can be found in the 2018 chapbook The Dead Go Swimming.

Rick Kearns (aka Kearns-Morales) is a writer, teacher, and musician of Puerto Rican and European heritage from Harrisburg, Pa. His poems have appeared in over 70 literary publications, most in the US but a few in Ireland, UK, Puerto Rico, and Argentina. He was named Poet Laureate of Harrisburg in 2014. Kearns is also a freelance journalist. His author’s website is:

Killer Cold

Back in those days

I worked frontline

mh emergency crew

called in when mostly

poor or working class

people were snapping


had a psychotic break


they didn't want to handle


it was a day like this

killer cold, they said

I got the call

church across the street

trembling voice telling me

"he's just laying there"

and he was

older homeless guy

stretched out on the



who didn't quite

make it to the church's

backdoor the night before

I never found out

if they ever located family

I always think of him

when I hear the phrase

killer cold

I remember leaning down

and patting his shoulder

kneeling by him for a minute

killer cold

only happens

when no one else

who cares

is there

Artists For Spare Change

the young ladies

of Avignon

move slowly

down the stairs

and onto the square

by the hairy saxman

jamming on 2nd Street where

the old Spot used to be.

When they tore down

the original Spot

they discovered a

circle of grease with

a diameter of 30 feet.

Scientists and archaeologists

were called in to create

The Allnight Diner Museum.

Shopping cart Mary

was "re-located" to a

garage on the hill and

all the pawn shops

and adult theaters

were torn down to increase

the possibility of

proactive synchronicity.

Van Gogh's crows

fly en masse

out of windows of the

abandoned steel plant

downriver from

aggressive toupees and

their touch scream uphones

and artisanal gas chambers.

Rats, opossums, and ghosts

speaking 10 different languages

scamper and fly around

the old steel mill

still unreachable to the

robocalling vulture fund managers

who are eager to eat your children

and accept your master race card.

Doc and Ellen

the old lady is still there

sitting on a porch swing

long gone

smoking virginia slims

taking notes of cars

parking near our house

talking to

no one in particular

"I saw a blue car

I don't know that car

they're parked near your house"

ellen crime watch

through cigarette haze

78 yrs old

thick lens glasses

old time harrisburg

her dad built the houses

on this block

brick duplexes

black and white photo of ellen

young woman near rose bushes

our backyard


her dad a carpenter

got to be a foreman

only one on a pennylvania dutch crew

who spoke english

built these brick houses

grew 6 rows of

sweet potatoes

in the lot

across the street

occupied by 2 houses now

put those spuds in a barrel

buried for freshness

ellen remembered

names of

famous harrisburgers

but what she knew

was office work

soda fountains

movies and

the 5 & dime downtown

then marrying Doc

Melvin D. Miller

MD Miller became


sheet metal worker

occasional sax player


Doc showed up

at their wedding day

bruised and dirty

his one suit all screwed up

Told me later

He was

drinking pre wedding beers

and some joker decided

to make a crummy comment

about the bride to be

they rolled out into the

street, Doc said,

"I probably broke

somebody's windshield"

with the other guy’s head.

When we met Ellen

and Doc, they were

near the end of their tale.

Ellen chain smoking

most of the day

on the swing

on the porch

staring at whoever

drove by

only going inside

half hour before

Doc came home

from hanging at a

public golf course with

some old buds from the


ellen would

every time

latch the screendoor shut.

A few minutes later

the nightly pantomime

would begin

Doc trying to

open the door

"Goddammit woman

Open the goddamn door”

for a few minutes

on days when all

the windows were open

we could hear

Ellen chuckling then

saying "Who's there?"

OK, coming, coming"

Ellen and Doc

all on their own

Most of their friends

on the other side

Good neighbors like us

helping out

here and there


my wife

cut Ellen's toenails for her

almost passing out

from the smell


next door

funny gay Artie

dying of AIDS

would play cards with

Ellen who once said

You know

that Artie

he's a funny one.

What's his story, Rick?

I told her

wasn't sure

maybe show business

not telling her

Artie had been famous

in Baltimore

for his Pointer sisters routine.

The years marched on

The cigs caught up

with Ellen

She went first

Doc inconsolable

Ziza made extra soup

Brought him over

for cookouts

turns out Doc

bought a microwave somehow

hundreds of cartons laying around

that I found

Doc checked out

not long afterwards

I moved his car

for a few days

until we found his

strange, estranged daughter


started appearing at their

door, knocking and


mastercard finally finding

my phone number

called me almost begging

for someone to seize

turns out

doc owed mastercard

35,000 dollars

And I laughed so loudly


And the rest

Never called again

And Doc

left nothing

But debt

An old car

And fond memories.

Doc and Ellen

Gone and gone

Like old Harrisburg

Where a factory worker

And a secretary

Could have a nice house

In a nice neighborhood

Walking distance

to a union hall

And a church

And at least 4 bars

Doc and Ellen

working, yelling

dying in love

and in debt


slow fade



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