Greenwood Encyclopedia of African American Literature

Friday, September 30, 2011

Hidden Driveway

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Hidden Driveway

In Tacoma to-Friday-night, after
laughing as hard as we needed to
with friends, we walked down
a dark alley to our car,

and I saw a sign on a
greased wooden telephone pole
that read, "Hidden Driveway,"
and above it was a round

convex mirror, in which
pointless murky images lived.
I found the concept of
a hidden driveway to be

not quite beautiful but
nonetheless necessary.
How crucial, I thought,
to have hidden driveways

out of which unseen people
drive their hidden vehicles
into obscure traffic to
secret jobs to earn invisible

money for unacknowledged
families, and then come home
to park the ghost-car and go
inside a domestic cloud.

Copyright 2011 Hans Ostrom

Epidemiology of Hate

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Epidemiology of Hate

If only we could vaccinate
against hate.
It's the constant plague. It leaves
each era a wreck,
and from each new wreck
more hate mutates.

Consider the hate you hear
every day in common discourse,
in how our "leaders" talk to each
other about people they imagine
to be us. Language
becomes black bile. Vile
strategems go viral.

No mass-cure for hate exists.
Individuals must treat themselves,
must get to know how to learn.
Must go inside themselves, scrub
the mind, and think. Must
choose to get better; or
at least not worse.

To witness the pleasure of hate
play on faces and turn person-herds
rabid is to glimpse evil's vectors
and hosts. People, witness what
hate does to you, to them. Change.

Copyright 2011 Hans Ostrom

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Creature in a Copse

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Creature in a Copse

Scuffed rough gray trunks of fir trees
in a copse stand ruler-straight, may
suggest modest ambition or nothing
but the image they help compose.
"Yes, trees are everywhere," wrote
Pound, dismissively, the rest of the
argument left unstated. True, almost

no one can really take a nature-break
from civilization because in retreat
even a recluse thinks of civilization.
A lot. Still, the still copse is. How
these particular (not just any) boughs
play riffs on breeze matters if you
notice. No performance is identical.

Of course there's machinery, there are
people, more or less nearby. And there's
you, as envoi from the not-wild. To come
here, to look at a stand of conifers, always
intricate, proves a worth, re-establishes
a modest, appropriate dignity not
discoverable by drilling through rocks

from civilizations' virtual rubble of myths
and texts. A precocious smart-ass in a copse
is just another creature amid trees that
keep on with the being thing and breathe.


Copyright 2011 Hans Ostrom

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Something My Wife Said To Me Today

"I know you would be comfortable living between a cemetery and a creek-ravine, but most people wouldn't, okay?"

Friday, September 23, 2011

Where He Works

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Where He Works

At the institution where he works,
people pass each other in corridors
or outside. They say hello for 10,
15, 20, 30 years. They recall each other's
names. Or not. They "work together"--
not really. Each is after only her or his
cup of compensation, acknowledgement.
Sometimes one person gets excised by the
institution.  Efficiently cut away. It
upsets a few people. For a while. Then,
more soon than late, there's no memory
of who left, who got removed. The
institution is like a moored ship full
of ghosts.  It's not going anywhere.
Hello, goodbye, request, deny.
The institution sometimes consults
the ghosts before it changes
things.  This is an especially empty
ritual.  A polite and airless drama.
After one ghost leaves, another
takes its place.  Or not. Hi. Nice
to see you.  See you later. Thanks! No.


Copyright 2011 Hans Ostrom

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Art of Obscurity

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The Art of Obscurity

Becoming a hermit
is the lazy person's path
to obscurity. The more
determined Obscurity Artist

becomes known but not
remembered, hides in plain
sight, is never exalted; it
goes without saying: hush.

Make connections that break.
Pretend to be interested in
rising and climbing, but see
to it you withdraw in time.

Stay and play at edges.
Always trouble categories.
Take advice but treat it
as material to rework

into whatever art it is
you make, not as assistance
out of the shadows.  Come and
go as you please, a kind of fame.


Copyright 2011 Hans Ostrom

Friday, September 16, 2011

Late Orthodontia

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Late Orthodontia

A dentist wants to straighten the man's teeth,
close up those those gaps--the ones that help
to scare people when his smile, tied somehow
to a Viking heritage, fully deploys its ivory squad.
An aunt of his had teeth behind her wisdom teeth.
He wonders if his is a Berserker's grin.

He hadn't invited the dentist to suggest dental
rearrangement. He had been and is content
with his teeth.  The man gets much unbidden
advice, always has. War, famine, and economic
collapse continue, so he's not however about
to spend excess thought on piercers and grinders

that do their jobs. "Do you floss with rope?" a
pretty young woman once asked him way back
then at a college party. "If you take your clothes
off, I'll try it," he'd said. They'd shared a laugh,
teeth bared. She'd stared at his teeth. Again.
Hers were straight and white, direct from suburbia.

"When I was 10," he told her, "my parents asked
the dentist if I should get braces." Probably the
Eagles were playing in the party's background--
"Tequila Sunrise" or "Take It Easy."  He said,
"But the dentist told them that my tongue is
too big and would just push the teeth and open

the gaps again. "No," the woman had said. She
smelled good, had on a thin dress. "Yes," he said.
Now through the Invisoline of memory, he
recalls that she shifted hips as he sipped tequila.
"Really," she said, not quite a question, and sipped
her beer, looked at his closed mouth; and pondered.


Copyright 2011 Hans Ostrom

Monday, September 12, 2011

Attitude Toward Light

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Attitude Toward Light


Light's entered once more. It's physics;
and a miracle. A sky of light, a scene
of green life drinking light--commonplace,
we might say; but shouldn't.

You're seeing the light or-and feeling
light's warmth on your skin--
light just arriving from the sun. Breathe
into the peace of it. Will civilization--
there's only one now, you know--
ever be marked mainly by its
capacity for peace? In this light,

it's important to ask such questions,
from which more light shines. Let your arms
hang down. Tilt your face up to the light.
For a moment hold this attitude, not
that other one. Your breath goes
out to the light.


Copyright 2011 Hans Ostrom

Friday, September 9, 2011

Machine People

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Machine People

You've ground me down to dust,
machine-people, pious nihilists,
capitalized thugs. You silly
sonsofbitches, you wreck shit
and never have to pay. You
blood- and spirit-sucking demons
who fucking hate everything including
your own bodies, your own children,
anyone with wit, brains, sensuality,
magic, quickness, intuition. You

horrible people, offspring of
slaveowners, union-busters,
torturers, flesh-burners,  apocaplyptic
thieves, puritanical freaks,
earth-eaters. God damn you
to your Machine Hell, your
Bankers' Killing Floors,
your cabinets of body parts.

You've ground me down but
I aspire to summon energy
enough to rise up and eat
your throat and stick a spike
of history into the side of your
fucking head. You've ground me
down to dust, so God damn you.
"He's very abrupt and changeful.
What brand of man is he?" asks
Sweet Jane Eyre, ground down.

He's the brand of man who's
going to bury a pick-ax into
your head while you sleep on
silk sheets next to a trophy-wife.

You've ground me down to
the dust you'll choke on,
eyeballs bulging, your fourth
wife grabbing jewels and
pre-nupts as she laughs and runs.
As you descend from your
private jet, glance left.
Too late. Too late.

"All's To Do Again," by A.E. Housman