Greenwood Encyclopedia of African American Literature

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

If You Want It To Be

The moon is as big as you want it to be.

Even hope can be sad if you want it to be.

Addiction will peel your brain away. The
needle's a gun if you want it to be.

It can be early, if you want it to be.
The book is all yours, if you want it to be.

Like an avalanche, I regret everything.
This is an apology if you want it to be.

It's all a puzzle if you want it to be,
and this is a clue.  If you want it to be.

hans ostrom 2017

The Jagged and the Smooth

Jagged edges enhance smooth achievement--
sacred stuff welded to profane, country
coagulated with city. True worldliness
cancels all its memberships.

hans ostrom 2017

Aspects of Poem Repair

I took a poem into the repair shop. Got
the syntax changed, had the metaphors
rotated, tuned up the images. They also
cleaned the syllables to smooth out
the timing. Bad news, though:

they said it has a cracked narrative.
Not cheap to fix that! So do I pay
for a new one, go with an after-market
narrative, or just get rid of the damned poem?

I mean, the cost of labor alone . . . .
Still, it's been a dependable poem
up to now.  And you know, it sounds
weird, but you get attached to a poem.

hans ostrom 2017

Monday, February 13, 2017

Penelope Calliope

Penelope Calliope, a nonethelessing
kind of girl, gave it a whirl,
a yes of a dash, a now of a splash,
and did not dwell on the fact
that her days like everyone's
will frown into the past.

hans ostrom 2017

Friday, February 10, 2017

Intriguing Employment Opportunities

Lead Evaporator.
Geological Psychologist ["Rock Therapist"]
Undercover Vegan
Atheist Pastry Chef
Theoretical Maid
Workplace Boor (Trainee)
Senior Skeptic
Managing Drifter
Erotic Data Analyst.

hans ostrom 2017

Appointments in the Flatlands

In the '56 Chevrolet sedan, steel and wheels,
we barreled down and up and down three
canyons' worth of Sierra peaks. A mother,
an aunt, 2-3 kids, no seat belts, logging trucks
and steep killer drops to make it interesting.

Eight pistons pushed us through the forest.
Ma and Aunt sang folk songs in two-part
harmony, Clementine drowning and Tom
Dooley killing. I was the youngest in the car
and brooded on ghastly lyrics instead of

lightening up with the lilt. And I couldn't
sing worth a shit. If you looked close
out the window, you saw smears and blurs,
if far, you saw the forest staying still.
Breton would have envied the provincial

surrealism.  Berryman, D.D.S., soon
loomed, mustachioed. His tooth drill
was slow and sullen.  What did I know,
what did we know? Only that life
unfolds and boulders are everywhere.

hans ostrom 2017

Plain as Day

"As plain as day," they say.
That's not very plain.
Revelations of sun's light
bewilder much more than
those of the moon's, which
is plainly a universal blue kiss.

hans ostrom 2-17

Salamander Row

I'm going down to Salamander Row,
where the quick, cool creek plays jazz
of its running for ferns and moss.

I'm going down to Salamander Row
to lose my sense of loss.
Beneath overhanging branches,

the salamanders live moistly
as meditative creatures. They
aren't teachers, but I learn

from their calm there, and the
shaded ambiance of Salamander
Row creates a balm there.

hans ostrom 2017

Friday, February 3, 2017

Like a Bank Camera

She advised him: "Think
of yourself as a bank camera
and just observe." He said,
"So I'm looking for potential
robbers?" She said, "Don't
be silly--you are just looking,
observing in a detached way.
A bank camera has no emotion."
"God damn it," he said,
"I know a camera has no emotion!"
She looked at him,
but not as a bank camera would.

hans ostrom 2017

Monday, January 30, 2017

Nude Not Descending a Staircase

The nude descending a staircase
never moves--forget reaching the landing.
She stays trapped in that manic
wheatsheaf of lines and angles,
poor thing. I guess Duschamp
felt freer painting it up that way.

True, Mona Lisa is locked in, too,
except she gets to relax,
and her smile's in charge,
whereas the nude not descending
a staircase is always on call
and off balance. She has to be ready
to move, yet isn't allowed
even to get dressed.

hans ostrom 2017

White Idols

Go to Church,
vote for a White Supremacist.
Go to Church,
vote for a rapist.
Go to Church,
vote for a nihilist.
Go to Church,
vote for a polyurethane
caesar. Render
your religious values
unto him. Go ahead
and get down with
your pious bad self
and pray to a White Idol.

hans ostrom 2017

Introductory Doom

It may come rather soon,
our introductory doom,
now that the White folks,
South and Midwest,
made a sociopath a President.

He, his fatuous goons, his
enablers, apologists, and
tolerators, aren't satisfied
with their perch high up
in capitalism. Nope.

They must destroy. They
must inflict, control,
degrade. They must
torture, ruin, exclude.
They must champion

stupidity. Their politics,
religion, economics, and
culture are all hollowed out,
vibrant fiber replaced
by one form of depravity

or another. They symbolize
America. The run the nihilistic
show. They oversee crimes,
neglect, and ignorance. They
craft our introductory doom.

hans ostrom 2017

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

How Are You Enjoying the Dictatorship?

Oh, look, America,
at what White Supremacy made you do.
Fear of change, fear of knowledge, too.
Oh, look, White men, at what
never growing up has set loose
like a plague.
Oh, look, White women
at what the White men mean
to do with your body,
citing their whacked-out version
of Scripture. Still flying
the Confederate flag, still
proud of slavery and Jim Crow?
It's a nice way to show
you don't know right from wrong.
Oh, look, America,
at what snorting celebrity
will get you. That bloated
"billionaire" racist on top
means you've hit bottom,
where the dictator's people
will stomp you,--just their
way of thanking you for
your support.

hans ostrom 2017

Another Good Surreal Night in Paris

That one night in Paris, we searched
for a Mexican restaurant and found it.
Waitresses wore tight bluejeans and
cowboy boots. Nashville music
thumped and twanged.

It was a sincerely inauthentic place.
That made us happy. It brought to mind
California, where only geology
is originally from there.

We ate les tacos and drank Dutch beer.
Looked across a dark courtyard
and spied, two floors up in a kind
of warehouse, ballet dancers,
dozens of them. They faced
the instructor, stretched and jumped
to music we could not hear.

A fire-eater appeared in the courtyard.
He licked a long match and guzzled
fuel. Tipped his head back, roared
flame into night. We saw his small
audience gasp. Full,

we sipped our beers. Saw that the dancers
were drenched in sweat. When the man
with the oboe walked in, we knew
we weren't supposed to be surprised.

hans ostrom 1981/2017

Plain States

We drive a tan Ford in Kansas.
We're the heart of the Census.

We vote the person, also the Party.
We wash our clothes when they're dirty.

We like to shop at Walmart or Penney.
We save our money.

We like TV and ice cream.
We don't dream.

Our daughter's Mary; the boy, John.
When we fought wars, we won.

Why did you stop here, stranger?
Now you'll have to stay.  Forever.

hans ostrom 2017

They Have Their There, We Have Our Here

Back there they speak of out here.
Out here we speak of going
back there. That doesn't mean we
go. Being from out here, we will
never be from back there or welcome.
Even if we go back there, here
will hold us still.  They will always
see the out in us and the here
in how we do things.  And they will
always want everyone everywhere,
including us out here, to agree
that back there is the best. Out here
we don't see things that way.

hans ostrom 2017

Monday, January 23, 2017

Partial Report from Childhood

Heights: obviously perilous.
Snow: tedious, never
as pleasurable as they would
persuade you it is. Adults:
loud and/or tired. Family:

a pecking order and a proliferation
of comparisons. School:
40% cruelty, 50% boredom,
10% pleasure. Men: in charge,
even if no one knows why.

Women: perfumed, patient,
smarter than they act.
Girls: fascinating, mercurial.
Did I mention fascinating?

Books: reliable. The future:
an absentee landlord.

hans ostrom 2017

Eve and Adam Evicted by Landlord

So after Eve and Adam got their Know on,
God evicted them, but notice please
that Eden stayed right there, the primest
piece of real estate there ever was,
and was not, for sale. It is a glorious
space, ipso and facto. It's round and flat
and low and high and wet and dry,
packed with flora, also fauna, and
maybe, yes, a sauna, oh why not?
Can I tell you where it is and why?
Oh, I wish. Or do I? Better not to know,
perhaps, Wasn't that the lesson of
eviction? Let's  ask dove and crow.

hans ostrom 2017