Greenwood Encyclopedia of African American Literature

Monday, December 5, 2016

No-Sense Songs

We need more songs
that make no sense.
We need more grassland
and way less fence.

Fevers and fenders,
go to the dome.
Let's buy some lettuce
and polish the chrome.

We songs need more
that sense no make.
Please ask the river
to help make a lake.

No hookish formulae,
just No, yes No!
Senselessly, senselessly
trudge through the snow.



hans ostrom 2016

Stolen Thread

Ariadne ran out of thread. Now we're stuck.
Her simple woven line had belittled the labyrinth
for us, rendering it tedious at worst.  That

was up until today.  Or is it night? A frivolous,
costly puzzle can still prove deadly, we're
thinking. We're thinking of the leaders who

imprisoned us here. They're perfectly,
compulsively evil. Ariadne tried
to help us with her sensible approach.

We're staring to think someone stole
the thread, for Ariadne always
carries plenty.  The dark walls are damp.


hans ostrom 2016

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Meetings

There is a man running
a meeting, and he asks
a question of the group
and then answers it himself
first.  At some length.

Everybody knows where
this bulldozer's going, and it's
going as slowly as a slug:
to the town of Consensus:
Population, 1.

If the meetings went
more quickly; if
the manipulation were
more artful; if the palming
of the pea were less clumsy,

the group might be less
bored, although it would
be just as demoralized.

These sluggish eddies
of power characterize
the middle class, one learns.



hans ostrom 2016

False Autobiography


I was born with an ax in my hand.
I had lunch with Hailie Selassie.
I know howto make alfalfa soup.

For a year after my 17th birthday, I cried blue tears when I cried.
In high school, I lettered in varsity ballet.
I have climbed the highest mountain in Paraguay.

I was once hired by Iceland to spy on Greenland.

*Although I am White, it is still obvious to me that White Supremacy
continues to devastate America like a demonic plague.



*this part is true



hans ostrom 2016

Monday, November 14, 2016

Why Did a White Supremacist Sexual Assaulter Get Elected President?

He and Pence won more electoral votes.  Reason one.
Other reasons I have listened to: The White working class was angry about its economic position, post-recovery.  This seems to be a favorite of both the gleeful Trumpers and the Bernie-Left.  I’ll accept it for a moment.  But then, of course, the obvious question is “Why did they channel the anger into support for a White nationalist, self-admitted serial sexual assaulter?”  Answer: something else about Trump besides his economic stance (which is at best nonsensical and at worst anti-working class) appealed to these voters.  You don’t have to be a political scientist to know this.  It was probably the White nationalism, although it could have been the sexual assaults.  Or both. Also, please note that if Black people express frustration or outrage, the most prevalent White responses are, “I’m tired of hearing about race.  My relatives were Irish [or whatever] and had a tough time. Why are they so angry? What about Black on Black violence? Blah, blah, blahgitty blah.”  (What about White on White White Supremacy?)  When White men  get angry, we are conditioned to genuflect. ” They were angry, so they voted for Trump.”  (Please nod in agreement; it’s the rules.)  Sorry, Bernie or Bill O’Reilly enthusiasts.  Your logic doesn’t pass.
Other reasons  I have rolled my eyes at: Hillary Clinton is corrupt.  Hillary Clinton kept her own server which had [actually, did not have]  classified material on it.  She is a nasty woman. She’s been in or near government a long time. She’s married to Bill Clinton.  Okay, whatever.  So thus it follows that a White nationalist serial sexual assaulter is preferable in this binary voters’ choice?  It makes no sense.  A child could see through the “reasoning.”
Another: “Both candidates were unappealing, so I a) didn’t vote b) voted for Johnson c)voted for Stein, or d) wrote in my cat’s name.  Terrific.  Both candidates were equally unappealing, so I decided to help elect a White nationalist serial sexual assaulter who is homophobic and xenophobic (etc.)  Note also that Trump deployed the “international [Jewish] banking conspiracy, too.  Remember who else used that?
The candidates were equally unappealing?  Sorry,  not credible.
When Trump announced his candidacy, I repeatedly told friends and acquaintances that they (White people) would elect him.  Yes, some non-Whites voted for him, but let’s get real: No Whites, no President Trump.  Anyway, I repeated my prediction for this reason and this reason alone: I wanted to hear an argument to persuade me otherwise.  Wanted desperately to hear one. Wanted to think the majority of Whites in this country had evolved, at least modestly.  I never heard an answer to my question that satisfied me, given what the USA is and always has been.  So I expected him to win, and when Florida started going for Trump, I concluded, “She’s toast.” (Sorry for the crass phrasing.)  Never have I hated being right than I did on election night.  My accuracy disgusted me.  I turned off the TV, vomited, and slept hardly at all.
A few observations to cut through the bullshit:
  1. After 2012, “Nearly half of counties [in the South and Midwest]that previously approved voting changes with the federal government have cut voting places [before the 2016 election].”  The number is 868.  The reasons are two-fold: 1) The Roberts Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act, a White Supremacist decision. 2) White Supremacist, pseudo-Jim Crow governors, legislators, and/or secretaries of state said, “Thanks, Roberts Court!” and went about suppressing the vote in ethnic areas.  Several states passed Voter ID laws to further suppress the Black (for example) vote.  The GOP = White Supremacy = hatred for the Black president = Trump. This is called getting down to brass tacks, in my late mother’s lingo.  Did these White Supremacist actions get Trump elected?  I do not know.  It doesn’t matter.  We may know the GOP by its actions and its incapacity to denounce Trump.   We may know Trump by what he has said and done and bragged about. (The quotation is from  Ari Berman, THE NATION.)  See also Emma Roller’s “Willie Horton’s Heirs,” New York Times, Willie Horton’s Heirs and “No, David Brooks, Trump is the GOP and You Own Him,” by James Leo, http://www.dailykos.com/story/2016/3/4/1495734/-No-David-Brooks-Trump-is-the-GOP-and-you-own-him
  2. I hope you have cash in your wallet or purse.  If you do, take out a one dollar bill, a two dollar bill, and/or a ten dollar bill.  All bear likenesses of former slave-owners.  Washington inherited almost a dozen slaves when he was 11.  (Meditate on that for a moment.) By the time he died, he owned over 300.  Thus he presided over a concentration camp for decades.  Same for Jefferson: inherited slaves as a boy, ended up owning over 600, and presided over a concentration camp for decades.  He also had children with a slave woman. (No power differential there!) When biographer Fawn Brodie pointed this out decades ago, she was ritually attacked by White liberal historians (several of them on my campus).  Later, the DNA tests proved her right. (As if we needed the DNA test.)  Hamilton, beloved Federalist, White liberal hero:
“As the letter excerpted above reveals, Hamilton’s relationship with slavery is far from unblemished. It contains a bit of family business involving two of Hamilton’s sister-in-laws, Margarita Schuyler Van Rensselaer and Angelica Schuyler Church, and their desire to reacquire a slave named Ben who was, at the time, under lease to another political acquaintance. It is one of many such examples in Hamilton’s papers in which he acted as a financial agent for the sale, lease, or acquisition of slaves for his immediate family.” – See more at: http://historynewsnetwork.org/blog/153639#sthash.KxD7migF.dpuf. From “Alexander Hamilton’s Exaggerated Abolitionism,” by
Now imagine a visitor from outer space who is given the currency, informed about the these slave-holding men, and then told that White Supremacist, serial sexual assaulter Trump has been elected president.  The visitor’s detached response: “Oh, okay. That makes sense. The country honors such men. Got it.”
3. Folks, it’s a White Supremacist nation.  A majority of college educated Whites in the South and Midwest voted for Trump.  College-educated. So much for the vaunted liberal-elite universities.  I have observed nothing to dissuade me from assuming that sizeable percentages of the student body, staff, and faculty at my liberal arts college either voted for Trump.  The schaudenfreude on campus on Wednesday was as thick as fog.
As a candidate for a job in African American Studies at my campus recently opined, “The law says you can, but you can’t.”  The post-Civil War amendments gave Blacks the rights of citizens and the right to vote, etc. (Except they didn’t.) Then came the lynching and other horrors after 1877.  Then came Jim Crow. Then came the mid-1960s civil rights legislation, much of it ignored in the South and often in the North (restrictive housing covenants, for example.  Note that Trump and Dad refused housing to Blacks).  Fast forward to “Stand Your Ground” and open carry.   A Black woman in the South stood her ground when she was about to be beaten up again by her husband.  She killed him with a gun because she (legitimately) feared for her life.  She was convicted and sent to prison.  She eventually got out, but that’s beside the point. The law says you can, but you can’t. Black men or women openly carrying guns?  Likely to be shot dead by a white man or woman and/or a police person.  Fast forward to events that spurred the Black Lives Matter movement.  People who say “All lives matter” are either gleefully indifferent to Black misery or are unable to absorb rudimentary linguistic subtlety in the English language.
I heard a Trumper at a rally, in response to something ugly Trump said about Clinton, yell, “String her up!”  People cheered.  Trump heard the comment and obviously thought it was appropriate.   Lynching-talk topped off by lethal misogyny.
4. White people from far Left to Far Right, can we please cut through the bullshit?  White people have never done right and made it stick for Black people.  Or for Latinos and Muslims, gays, lesbians, and the transgendered.  How many White people either voted for Trump or somehow knowingly enabled him to be elected?  A sizeable majority.  It’s moral depravity, and it never stops, and that’s why Trump got elected.  The rest is window-dressing.  A large majority of White people (many on my campus) would/will recoil from these statements (to say the least), go into wounded/outraged White-victim mode, and switch on the rationalization machine (and take it up to level 10).  They simply don’t have the moral character or intellectual maturity to fess up.  They are useless.

Bigot Nation Blues

I don't want to cope.
I just want to leave.
U.S. is Bigot Nation,
you'd best believe.

A rapist, racist xenophobe:
commander in chief.
Just like psycho slaveholders
(to be brief).

War-crazed haters run this
place, and there's no reprieve.
I don't want to cope.
I've run out of hope,
and I just want to leave.

I just want to leave.
Duties keep me here.
I see so many people
terrorized, in fear.
I don't want to cope.
I've run out of hope,
I wish I could get clear.



hans ostrom 2016

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Answer Sampler

I've prepared several answers
for you in the unlikely event
we meet and you feel like
posing questions.  Here's a 
five-piece sampler:

"Yes, the U.S. is a racist shit
hole"; "ten minutes"; "zinnias";
"Frederick Douglass"; "maybe."



hans ostrom 2016

White Pendulum

That the political pendulum swings
in the U.S. isn't important. That
White Supremacists designed and operate
the pendulum is the thing to remember
(not that you forgot).  It's a nation
founded by slave-holders and ethnic
cleansers.  (I'm seeing a pattern here.)

This is where we live, and the old news
still lacerates.  I'd pray for us all
except it seems at best quaint--
like knowing things, relying
on evidence, and resisting depravity.



hans ostrom 2016

Monday, November 7, 2016

Concerning the Kodak Brownie Target 6-20 Box Camera

Photos used to be dear currency,
transferred generationally like
jewelry. ("That's the only photo
we have of your great Uncle Ali!")

Deflation has set in. Digital spaces
trade in counterfeit images. Nobody
cares.  Photos once deemed great
are too much seen, bore.

Selfie poses have been formulated
into sub-genres. Porn proliferates
like mold. Seriously, topsoil is
rarer than photography.

However, I do keep a modest
trace of magic in an aged Kodak
Brownie box camera, with
Art Deco decoration. This

camera is so simple it's like a sneeze.
Its click is as as quiet as
a mouse's sigh. And the Brownie
knows how to keep a secret.


hans ostrom 2016

Certain Beverages

Hot chocolate is independent, comforting, and interesting,
like a tastefully dressed and perfumed woman
sitting at a bar who knows how to hold a conversation.

A shot or more of vodka is like a broad, iced
highway when you've just been handed
the keys to a black Corvette with failed
headlights and bald tires.

A German beer from the tap
is a highly trained, reserved professional,
absolutely dependable.

If you specify the red wine as Beaujolais,
then I will want to be of assistance
to multiple French women at once,
most likely in October, in Paris, and forgive me
if, momentarily, I confuse the situation
with paradise. As to retsina,

God help me, I did love it, as one
might love an athletic, deceptively
savvy woman from a rural province.

If you would ask me about God,
I would refer you to clean alpine creek-water.


hans ostrom 2016

The Schedule of Time and Space

Did space and time arrive at the same
time? Maybe time arrived on time
and space was running late. Or

Space could have been hanging around
waiting for the concept start to start.
And both time and space reported
for duty before the Big Bang, right?

It's all rather enormous and confusing.
I suppose it doesn't matter now, now
that matter is, and is space taking time
to rearrange itself constantly. Anyway,

it can't be any accident that Einstein,
whose schedule included lots of work
with time and space, developed
a comic affect.


hans ostrom 2016

Friday, November 4, 2016

Blood Under a Thumbnail

It's the dark lake under the ice.
It's the reminder-in-residence
of pain and of an accident
that called you "Fool!"
It's the risible badge
of an apprentice carpenter,
and the mark of death
on a doomed slate
of the keratin matrix.
It's a fact that laughs at philosophy.


hans ostrom 2016

Floating Windows

Like you, I've noticed windows without buildings,
ghost panes floating above city streets.
Local officials sometimes gather to argue
about how to get them washed, and would it
be a union job? Boosters plot
a Floating Pane Festival.

Local professors challenge the physics,
opposing plain sight. Like you,
I'm thankful that these hovering frames
of glass are at least something fresh
and new, for the city is, like all cities,
a weary site of congealed geometries
covering underground rivers of liquid dung.



hans ostrom 2016

Monday, October 31, 2016

Chess Teachings

This is just to confirm that a dance
is more pleasurable than a fist fight.

Geometry likes to stretch.

If the Queen is close by,
do not deny it

Death is death. The end
of a game is not death.

Never get angry at a machine
if you know where the off switch is.
And even if you don't.

Follow a method until
the first surprise.  Then stay
calm, look at your surroundings,
and make a judgement.

If you're healthy, you're winning.

Play with the person.
Play against the person's symbols.

Always have food and water on hand,
if you can.

Remember to breathe.

Neither a flag nor a game
is more important than
a roof that doesn't leak.

Hurry less, fret less, and smile more.

Always know ahead of time
what you're going to do after
the game and why.


hans ostrom 2016

The Way of the Manatee

I gather manatees like to swim,
float, ogle, eat lettuce, fart,
be in/make a family, and sleep.

This represents a simplistic
but not altogether unworkable
approach to living life on Earth.


hans ostrom 2016