Monday, October 12, 2015



They itch, scratch, writhe, sleep, snore. Yes,
all right, sex too. Also mites. Mites are a
problem for celebrities as they are a problem
for everyone else.


They present themselves like peacocks or rubbery statues; OR
they become sullen and withdrawn like badgers; OR both.


Celebrities didn't invent this system, in which
attention is the coin of the realm, not money,
which is, albeit important, secondary. Celebrities
are attention-capitalists who leverage attention
to acquire more attention. Pay attention!


It was the result of a mass-expulsion.


The mixture of fame, money, entitlement,
indulgence, and self-loathing sometimes
explodes like a souffle.


They are represented to us as people we imagine
ourselves being while still being ourselves,
although they know we can never be like them,
and they know why. We know why.


I asked a tombstone for an autograph.
It refused. I offered mine. It declined.


Retired from acting, Cary Grant liked to watch
TV and eat a modes meal on a TV tray at home. Greta
Garbo did not want to be alone; she wanted
to be left alone.


Society suffers from celebrity.

hans ostrom 2015

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Christians and Guns

The senator called on all
Christians to arm themselves
with pistols and rifles
against something he saw in his head,
a space
also inhabited by oily sand dunes,
asymmetrical concrete blocks,
mud puddles, and small
household appliances.

And by Jesus, of course,
riding into town on a donkey,
his pistol holstered,
the rifle across his legs.

The senator can't find scripture
for his alarm, but that don't matter,
children; that don't matter.

hans ostrom 2015

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

A Night of Bluegrass

Go ahead and cut the top off-a that mountain
to get your coal, Mr. High Pockets. You
can't cut that high-pitched wail out of the air
where the mountain was
and shall ever be, in God's eyes.

And all them strings get picked and strummed,
chorded and teased, til a tune is tightly braided,
careful and true, like the long gray hair
of a matriarch reading her Bible in blue
moonlight, rocking and praying. She's

as heart-broken and reconciled as a ballad
about some young'ns gone too soon. Music
of the hills distills sadness, strains it
through an upright tradition
that Nashville goddamn tried to ruin.
But could not.

hans ostrom 2015

Friday, October 2, 2015

Concerning Doors

They're like Calvinist ministers. Merciless oak.
Posture rod-rigid. They're
like politicians; they force us to shake their hands.
They are like dancers: if they cannot swing
and sway, well hey, they would rather
fade into the wall.

They are like laws that sometimes come
between us, sometimes save us from our rage.

When a logger revs the chainsaw and draws
it across a Douglas fir, listen:
from all up and down two hundred feet
of poised timber comes the sound
of doors slamming in suburbia.

Driving the highway, you see them:
uniform, sad doors of motels,
all shut, all locked, all painted
yellow, one yellow bulb above each door.

Note that in the offices of power,
the closed doors are more powerful,
and are larger, than most walls.

In quick old comic films,
villains chased Our Silent Hero
down and across a corridor of doors.
One of the early schticks.

Swinging doors of the set of a
Western looked like a gambler's vest.
Comes the actor playing the slinger
bursting through, his spurs singing
in the sudden scripted silence
like crickets on a prairie. CUT TO:
outside: out through those weak
doors staggers a shot body, stiff
as a real door, then down the steps
and falling into dust. An
American narrative.

The last room alas is only as wide as
its door. You won't hear the pebbles knocking.

hans ostrom 2015

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

That's Right, Me & Keats

Beauty is false, and truth
can be ugly. That's some
of what we know but only
a little of what we need
to know. Keats's formulation

is beautifully circular.
Like the urn, real or
imagined, it's neither true
nor false. It just is, so
we like seeing. That's

right, John, we still like
looking at that ode.

hans ostrom 2015

Monday, September 28, 2015

Nobody Beats Tacoma

Here's how it works: Beginning as North 27th Street,
North 21st Street just gets its confidence up
when North I Street slugs it and takes over,
only to be vaporized by South Yakima Avenue,
which morphs into something called Thomson.
The streets of Tacoma are so mean they're
mean to each other. Nobody beats Tacoma. Nobody.

Seattle has forever misread the meaning of Point
Defiance. It's not a park or a peninsula,
or a place to play dress-up on your bike.
It is a destined middle finger pointed
vaguely north. Put a penny
on the railroad track down by the port,
and you might well summon Guy Fawkes,
Richard Brautigan, a Chinese laborer,
or a skeptical Puyallup woman, pre-contact.
Whoever it is will take your penny
and invest it in a cloud-cone
hovering above Rainier like the saucers
Kenneth Arnold saw. About the time

you think you have Tacoma solved,
you find yourself on a suspension-bridge,
with a dog, and the bridge starts
writhing like a boa constrictor. Then
it flaps and twists, snapping itself
free from blueprints, taking a dive
like a punch-drunk stevedore
trying to earn a buck at a smoker
in 1931. The dog lives. If you tell

the tattooed woman at the drive-in
that you ordered everything on your
burger, she will tell you, without
animus, "That is everything."
Nobody beats Tacoma. You have
to understand: Tacoma is more
than a grit city that keeps its
bourgeoisie on a leash like a pit bull.
Tacoma is a sense of humor.

Once you get that, it may take decades,
you'll understand everything. I
mean, really, after embedding
yourself in a group of eccentrics
at the Parkway, the Acme, or
the Goldfish Redux, you'll see
the folly in naming streets
and other ambitions. You'll realize
you are Nobody, the only person
ever to beat Tacoma. Good night.

2015 hans ostrom

Party of One

I walk around the city. I'm a one-person
parade. Wave to onlookers, hold to the route.
Nobody knows I'm being honored. That's okay.
I prefer it that way. I stroll proudly,
give thumbs up to stray cats, seagulls,
and insects. After it's over, I
head home. There's only so much
adulation this hero can take.

hans ostrom 2015

Running Late

Time-travel will not be impossible yesterday.
Tomorrow will purvey proper questions
about problems we shall have used-to ignore.

Time offers an infinitude of views
through which to perceive matter,
which has no purpose.

I'm leaving here to go there to buy
coffee and bread: these eleven words
and the universe predate me. I'm running late.

hans ostrom 2015

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Murder Mystery

A certain curtain. An uncertain merchant.
Add a dead body. Subtract a dead body.
Multiply details of an atmosphere. Divide
clues. Some must be concrete, others
ethereal, and some as sodden as
milk-soaked cereal. Why

does the solver solve? That's the most
important motive. Who allowed
the murderer to become what the murderer
is? Indict them. Please

remember we are talking about language.
In a book, nobody really ever gets killed.
That's one of the great virtues of literature.

hans ostrom 2013


Twilight: sky brighter than landscape,
which backs slowly into darkness.
Crows fly home, high for them. They
become wrinkled, animated black lines.

So much is wrong out there--
the city, the nation, the world.
One feels ashamed, obligated, compelled,
and weary. This evening I give in

greedily to privilege, sit outside with
headphones on, listening to Ellington
indigos, "Solitude," "Prelude to a Kiss,"
"Mood Indigo," a cover of "Autumn Leaves."

In my heaven, Duke is musical director.
September air, influenced by Puget Sound,
mixes with dimming light sublimely. Yes,
I said "sublimely." Insufferable.

I want for nothing except more commitment
to change some bad things.
How disgusting to write about oneself
at a time like this.

hans ostrom 2015