Monday, December 9, 2019

A Little Song of Should and Would and Could

I should have done this,
and I should have done that.
I should have been a forester
and worn a woodsy hat.

I could have done that,
and I could have done this.
I could have climbed Everest
had I not been so remiss.

I would have done less,
and I would have done more
had I had a better notion
of what this life is for.

Regret is rather useless,
regret is kind of dumb.
Cussing out oneself
only makes one numb.

I hope you're doing what
you should and could and would
according to your tastes
and what you think is good.

And what you think is good:
I hope it makes some sense.
Too many make bad good
Under thus-and-such pretense.

hans ostrom 2019

Saturday, December 7, 2019

Dublin Perambulation

Parnell's Protestant, pugnacious statue
directs foot traffic, which today
is syrupy slow and sweet, a mix
of Kerry green and Dublin blue
on the big day of Gaelic football
championships match: "All

amateur, mind you, and good
for the family," says everyone
we've listened to about the matter.

On wide O'Connell Street,
buskers and beggars attract
brassy coins like bees
in the names of art and pity.

Then here comes the autumn
breeze, as fresh as, well,
I don't know what, but
it's hauling ass down the street.

And here comes a casino,
"Dr. Quigley's Goodtimes Emporium,"
how droll, how not-Las-Vegas.
Skulking, big, and befuddled,
I buy braided strands of cerulean
wool yarn and declare ritual
loyalty to the Boys in Blue."

But really I'm thinking of the
main fortress in town. It is
circular, and it's a library.
Two great ideas married.

My hip aches like history's teeth,
and although I appreciate Yeats
and Joyce, Lady Gregory
and Eavan Boland, and 1916,
and the troubles, and wit, I just want
some brown bread and jam..

Anxious shrieking seagulls
in St. Stephen's Green seem
to agree with me. Dublin's
and easy city, if--as with all
cities--you have a bit of money.
The swan I see in the big
pond came from Coole,
that's a lie, and I'm hungry.

hans ostrom 2019

Friday, December 6, 2019

And the Smiles Don't Disappear

In another century, you walked
across Litenyny Bridge,
St. Petersburg. Snow with notions
of rain fell tangentially then.
You'd come from Sweden
expecting nothing. The city
was scuffed, stained, and strained.
Puffing buses spewed black exhaust,
hauling exhausted people. You
were on your way to the Finland
Station, because of what you'd read,
not what you'd lived. The river
was white. And beautiful.

Now in this century, lights
of St. Petersburg have bloomed.
The Bronze Horseman's vision
of the City has been buffed.
Hope's been hauled up out
of sad pits. People breathe
and laugh, walk to school
and work in good clothes.
Fresh vegetables for all.
Revolution enough, but don't
tell Lenin. When in St. Petersburg,

you must look for Akhmatova's
house, well at least one she lived
in. Because you like living,
you seek beet soup in September
as rain with notions of sunshine
falls in a kindly way on the massive
monuments, on peoples hats
and umbrellas, on their smiles,
which don't disappear.

hans ostrom 2019

Roll the Boulder

Roll the boulder away,
I say. Push the rock.
Don't let it block
the entrance to enchantment.

They say a muscular angel
rolled the boulder
away, letting a certain
spirit be on its crucial way.

Hey, I don't know,
I wasn't there. Many women
were. I defer. I
do not demur. Roll

the obstinate stone
away from dispiriting
obstacles. As you push,
think of strong angels.

hans ostrom 

What Happened to What Happened

I know what happened
to what happened. It sits
right here in my hand
like a small bird,
a little bit of sand,
or a few notes that fell
out of a song.

hans ostrom 2019

Monday, November 25, 2019

Boo Hoo

Once I started crying,
I didn't stop. A sizzling
lahar of salt tears poured
out. Buildings of my
interior life fell over.
Hurricanes and typhoons
raked shaky coasts
where grief had lived
in mansions.

Geysers of weeping
spewed, and a billion
drums pounded iron
roofs with rain. All

my brilliant boats went
belly up or bow down.
In the end I stood like a stone
statue in a swamp
and wondered what another
day might bring or take.

Tactically, I'll revisit
stoicism and make my way
back to a dry plateau
where dead brush hisses
in hot wind. Home at last.

hans ostrom 2019

City Fixer

I went around the city
fixing things today.
With my wrench, I fixed
a tree, tightening its
branches. I advised
a tall building on how
to improve its posture.

One of the parks was
badly fractured. I used
special bolts to mend it.
Logic dictated that I
give food to a hungry
woman. I tried to

spray the mayor
with political  disinfectant
but was rebuffed. Now
I'm conducting an ad
hoc choir on the
underground train,
for as you know the noise
of the metro begs
for assistance. Citizens,
I am here for you.

hans ostrom 2019

When a Night Takes

When a night takes years
to pass and fever builds
a monstrous city in your brain,
you get some funny notions
about time. You writhe

in space like a wounded snake
and sweat like a stoker. God
can't hear you over the wreckage
of sounds in your head.

The pain belongs to someone who
reminds you of you, who
considers becoming terrified,
but that takes energy. And
from tomorrow's direction
comes the strangest thing,
which is you don't know what.

hans ostrom 2019

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Poets, Keep Going

Poets, whatever else you do--
fitting pipes, washing clothes,
fighting fevers--keep going.

Language invented itself
so creatures like you could
squawk complaints, snap
rage, run a rhythm or two,
mumble melodies, blather,
and boom. Doom is a constant,
a function of matter. No matter,

keep going: the saying and
scribbling, the text-tiling
and questidigitation are
frivolous and crucial, vile
and vain, and a rare form of sane.

hans ostrom 2019

Bourbon Street Blues

Bourbon Street's a nightmare
the subconscious mind refused
to publish: too obvious. Frat boys,
sorority royalty, and benumbed
conventioneers move through
the neon chute like cattle. Some
of them yell as if yelling had
just been invented.

To thrive, the clubs must be
as loud as train wrecks. Batter
their ears, three-personed band.
At 4:00 a..m. there's a funeral
for moonlight smothered by clouds.

Sex workers and pickpockets
count their wages. Obligato
snarls from a fat motorcycle
finish off kitschy rituals.
Solo buskers and Black kids
who beat on plastic buckets
make the only tunes worth
listening to. People make
a living here. That's the point,
really the only point.

hans ostrom 2019


How do you shape your silences?
What do they serve? Some
silences seem to preside
over thoughts that keep going,
keep searching for nothing
except the next object of thought.

There's the quiet in the mind
following failure, the sound
of shame and acquiescence.

Yesterday you heard a noise
that came you thought from
inside a wall. You found a silence
and leaned into it, hoping/not hoping
to hear the sound a second time.
The next day you remembered
it a silence to savor, not as
an absence of something you sought.

hans ostrom 2019

Their Dominion Today

Always the birds, to haul you back
from history, splendor's clutter,
and your grasping mind. On a steel
bench outside Catherine's Summer
Palace, near a lakely pond,
I get an ear buzzed by a sparrow
on its way to pick over grain
tourists tossed to ducks.

A black and grey raven lands
close on a bench-back, cocks
its head to cast a cold eye
of inquiry. Sun warmth,
oaks, willows, and breeze suggest
Central California to me.
Our landscapes are so much
more similar than our politics
force us not to be. Here

is here. Birds live in their
own geography and polity.
They know they can't eat
history or nest in ideology.
Today is their dominion
outside St. Petersburg.

hans ostrom 2019

Monday, October 21, 2019

New to Blue

Different hues of blue
assert different moods to you.
It's true: when you forget
to mind your mind,
it will try to run every
sensed impression through
its symbolizing factory,
which manufactures far
too many products.

You reach a point
where you refuse delivery,
wanting to be able to experience
meaninglessly, or try to,
as if you were for instance
new to blue.

hans ostrom 2019