Greenwood Encyclopedia of African American Literature

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Ghost Pavilion

I have been admitted to
the Ghost Pavilion,
which rises from a
plateau beyond fatalism.

There one is invited
to view reproductions
of the groups and squads
and masses of faces

one has passed by,
through, or among
in life. Students at
the Ghost Pavilion

accept that reality
exists but also learn
that anybody's perceptions
of it are little more than

a cache of roughly
recorded glimpses.

hans ostrom 2017

What a Lovely Afternoon

(acknowledging Calvin and Hobbs, and Henry C.)

What a lovely afternoon,
in spite of the fascist President
of Amerixon and his cabinet
full of rapacious rats. What
a lovely afternoon, shining
down on poverty and pain
and insufficient rain. What

are we going to do about this
fix in which science is treated
as a cartoon and hateful lore
displaces logic?  Not sure

we can do anything much
(but what a lovely afternoon)
except watch a culture try
to commit suicide and take
so many innocent people with it.

hans ostrom 2017

In Old Palm Springs

In old Palm Springs, north, just beyond
the charming attempts at glamour,
trunks of big palm trees look like
elephants' legs: parched, dermatologically
checked, and weary.  The Earth
is each palm's shoe, and all the trees
are taking a walk through space.

hans ostrom 2017

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Old Fables

I prefer the older animal books for children--
the ones in which creatures act, dress,
and talk like humans but aren't cute.

In the illustrations, they still look
like creatures, seem embarrassed
by the costumes given them--

a frog in coat and vest, a fox
wearing a scarf.  But in those books
they throw themselves into the difficult

roles. I saw that in the stories, and
that's what interested me--the animals'
existential struggle with entertainment.

hans ostrom 2017

Cross-Examination Song

I have no further questions
for this witness.

He really doesn't seem
to know his business.

He said he saw the man
but changed his tale again.

Prevarication displays
symptoms like a sickness.

hans ostrom 2017

Fixated, Exasperated

I've been trying to write
about other things,
but I'm fixated on
White Supremacy, what
a deadly, depraved sink-hole
it is, how it elected a racist
rapist President, and how
White folks let it persist,
nourish it, become
zombies in its death-cult army.

hans ostrom 2017

Be Careful What

"Be careful what you wish for; you may get it."

--Old Saying, variously attributed

Be careful what you fish for. It
may catch you. Be careful who
you swish for (for whom), for
you may get swashed or even
buckled. Be careful what you
kiss for, for kissing is a kind of wish.

Be careful what you dish, not not
because you later may have to take
it, but because dishing carefully
is as we know the right thing to do.

"Be careful what you hiss at":
a feline admonition.

hans ostrom 2017

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Busker in the Rain

I am a folksinger
sitting in the rain,
playing my guitar,
very much in pain.

Nobody's listening,
nobody cares.
Someone took the table,
leaving broken chairs.

I am a failing busker.
And I love it so.
I am myself, and that's
about all I know.

Nobody's listening,
they all turn away.
They look like hollow barns
that hold no hay.

hans ostrom 

Aspen Shadow Wisdom

Wisdom is a witty
shadow created by
sunlight and an aspen,
which, after Earth
became and changed
over the billions of
years, grew there then.

hans ostrom 2016

Monday, December 12, 2016

We Had a Good Morning

We had it good there for a while,
saying tuna implies blue
and shirt suggests sadness.
For most of the morning, mist
and tree remained a single entity.

The pickled, packaged voices
of information streaming through devices?
We re-deployed them as sound collages.
By late afternoon, windows re-
solidified, and reporting sports

scores seemed to be a rational
activity.  Life became plain
and tepid once more. Dogged
and sullen we set out our clothes
for the work-week ahead.

hans ostrom 2016

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


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,
  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: 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