Greenwood Encyclopedia of African American Literature

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Love Poem Put Together Before Reading Guidelines for Assembly

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Love Poem Put Together Before Reading Guidelines for Assembly


I love you very mulch. I mean much. I like
the way your berries ripen on your vines, baby,
and I don't mean literally.

I like your skin. Suddenly that doesn't
sound like a compliment.

Hey, the connection between laughter
and sexual attraction is something
I've often wanted to discuss with
strangers I'm standing in line with--
your thoughts?  Words can possibly

express how I feel about for you,
I mean feel about you. That's
what words do--they feel about
and then they express. Like:

I love you! Look how easy that was.
I vow to you that I will bake you an apple pie
as diligently as I would bake it for anybody
else.  But to me, you're not anybody else,

okay?  I wrap this poem up for you now.
Please take it. I don't want it back.  I'm
so fond of you I'd like to fondle you
right away.  In other words, totally
in love with you: me.


Copyright 2011 Hans Ostrom

Monday, November 28, 2011

"Venice, Carnivale," by Hans Ostrom

"The Albatross," by Charles Baudelaire

Political Sign

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Political Sign

Visible only for a while longer:
a white, blue, red candidate's
sign (name now inscrutable),
lodged under a green, brown,
yellow mass of blackberry vines,
brush, and ferns.





Copyright 2011 Hans Ostrom

Monday, November 21, 2011

Michelle Alexander: Is Mass Incarceration the New Jim Crow?

boxing poets

most people don't think
about poets. no reason to.
so many more urgent matters
to attend to.

some people who do think
about poets like to box
them up. this

poet's in the small-press
box, that one's in the gilded
box of anthologized fame,
this one is political, that
one performs, this one's
of the street, that one
from the colleges, this one
is Great, that one must
not be thought of as Great.

some boxes, history
made. we can keep
some of those, let others
of them go. we'll use
our judgment, our
experience. we mustn't
not own up to history--
that is the main thing.

the rest of the boxes,
we can throw out. a
person either writes
poetry, or doesn't,
and the most recent poem
is the kind of poetry
the person writes.

poems don't go to
college or teach there.
they don't drink wine
or work as fry-cooks or
go to war or lie down
for peace and get kicked.

of course, many poets
are only too eager to
jump in a box or push
another poet in a box
because poets are just as
stupid as other people
and often more so.

if you're a poet and
are eager to categorize
yourself and other poets,
you probably need to
settle down.

write a poem. or don't.
read one. or don't.

start from there. work
your way forward. take
your time. surprise yourself.

try this: write one word.
what kind of poet does that
word make you? really?

Copyright Hans Ostrom

which doesn't rule

if you feel worse
about yourself after
you go to your job
but are still glad you
have a job, then in
some countries, you're
in the majority, which
doesn't rule.

if you have no hope
of getting a job
you like, or even
a job, then in
some countries,
you're in the majority,
which doesn't rule.

if you're an american
and have no control over
what america does, then
you're in the majority,
which doesn't rule,
and you are a citizen
of a super-power, an
empire, so you do
and don't rule.

if you don't believe
one goddamned word
about your place-of-work's
credo, mission statement,
bosses' rap, etc., you
probably haven't yet
lost all your faculties
of discernment, and
you're in the majority,
which doesn't rule.

if you've thought about
it carefully and decided
your life has no discernible
purpose except to keep
itself going and get
enough cash and things
to keep you and yours
going, you are experiencing
one form of the modern
condition, and things
could be a lot worse,
and in some regions
you're in the majority,
which doesn't rule.

if you think another
group of people besides
the groups you are in
rules, then you are correct,
probably, and you are
in the majority, which
doesn't rule.





Copyright 2011 Hans Ostrom

the attempt becomes a gesture

the attempt becomes a gesture

the man wearing a thin sweatshirt
and no hat stands at an uncovered
bus stop in freezing rain. he isn't me.

he's trying to light a cigarette. his
attempt becomes a gesture--
ludicrous but noble, less than
tragic but not bad at all.

he's inside whatever being alive
is for him, and i'm inside what
being alive is to me. i see him
from a warm place out of the weather.

if i were like jesus i'd go to the
man and perform a miracle--
like getting that cigarette lit,
or giving him money,
or giving him my parka, or
embracing him. he might
like all of that. except for
the embrace. he might
bite my nose off for that.

i don't do any of these things,
because it's easier not to,
and it's acceptable that i
think i'm not his keeper.

at moments like these, i
think of Bukowski,
who--i gather from his
words, i never knew
the man--thought like
jesus sometimes, i mean
with a similar toughness.
tough on everybody--
including, let's say especially,
the reflective, ignoble fuckers in
warm parkas out of the
weather.


Copyright 2011 Hans Ostrom

in the wheel

in the wheel


my Aunt Nevada kept a chipmunk
in a cage. it got fatter than other
chipmunks even though it ran
in its little wire wheel. we kids,

we liked watching the chipmunk
eat and run. that chipmunk is nothing
but molecules recycled now. i thought
of it today. at home, i know the truth

and value of being no one and nobody.
detachment. then i go out there again,
and one way or another, i get suckered
into running inside the wheel.

call it ambition, work ethic, pride,
fear, making a living, compulsion,
whatever. it's a wheel. i think the big
difference is the chipmunk

knew it wasn't going anywhere. it
saw that clearly. this running and
going and wanting credit for running,
they're worse than the Sisyphus-deal.

he had a task. he went somewhere.
he didn't want or seek approval.
how many billions of us are stuck
in the wheel? hell, i have it good.

i know that. but
it's a wheel,
and it's less than
absurd.


Copyright 2011 Hans Ostrom

box store

box store


a box store isn't
where they sell boxes.
it's where they sell stuff
they bought "in volume"
and marked up only as far
as the stuff would look
cheap.

i go to one of these
stores. it's where retail
items get one last chance,
like habitual felons.

i buy two bars of
Cashmere Bouquet soap
there because i need soap
and i've liked that name
for decades and it's a two-word
surrealistic poem.

the husband of the woman
in front of me in line to pay,
he's disabled. he leans on
one cart while she unloads
the other. they're around 40.
she hands him his retractable
cane, then unloads 2

rugs, 9 bags of gerbil food,
and 10 boxes of cereal.
as the cashier shoots
the items with his laser-gun,
he says to the other cashier,

"when do we get help?"
the woman in line ahead
of me to pay says, "are
you hiring?" the cashier
does not look at her and
says, "we just hired some
people. there's an application
over there." i watch

the disabled husband. he
keeps his game face. he refuses
to look ashamed. he looks
out but not down. i think
he was hurt on the job. badly.
like his leg is permanently wrong.

he still wears the jacket
with the label of his company.
his hair is neatly trimmed.

the cashier says, "will
that be credit or debit?"
the husband says, "debit."


Copyright 2011 Hans Ostrom

"dreaming," by Charles Bukowski

More Haiku of Basho, translated by Lucien Stryk

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

What Have You Done For Me, Lately?

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What Have You Done for Me, Lately?


What have you done for me, Lately?
 I don't even understand your name--
"Lately" can mean tardy or recent,
and hell, "late" can even mean dead.
"My late uncle" doesn't mean, "Oh,
I wonder what's keeping my uncle!"
Death's keeping him. I'm compulsively

early in a world that slops past appointments
like bilge. The others arrive late--but not
lately. Good God, Lately, you're a rejected
adverb! You're a part of speech wandering
in a desert. What have you done for me
except make me rush, glance at my watch,
worry when a friend doesn't show?

Lately, you are time's freelancer, a runner
for bookies, the line of people that doesn't
move. I'd like to do something for you,
Lately. For really I would.

"Fox and You," by Hans Ostrom

Sunday, November 13, 2011

and the soup

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and the soup


and I'm glad for soup,
 for hot soup on  bitter days

and I'm happy there is
black hair, white hair, brown
and red hair, gold hair;

and for breath--so easy
to forget I owe everything
to it, to breath, to . . .

. . . to the Circumstances
(one way to say it) I am
grateful, for I am here,

I was here, will have been

here. . . and I'm glad for light,
day and sky and bulb,
light in dreams;
and glad for darkness--

black silhouettes of pines
against blackness and stars,
holy, holy . . .and the soup.


Copyright 2011 Hans Ostrom

Friday, November 11, 2011

Lime Cove

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Lime Cove


Charlotte sings a lullaby
to her bedroom, making sure
it's slow asleep before she
quicks herself away. Charlotte
and the night are in a kind
of clanky love. She says
to her doorbell, "Please come
in," and washes from it all
those oily index-finger prints.

Solicitations, she thinks, take up
so much of our lives. Asking,
answering. "God," she asks,
"help me to find a place in pause,
a site, a situation, for it seems
I am defeated by the business
of each day."  Charlotte knows

she hasn't earned or isn't due
a special treatment. She also
knows she isn't out of line
in asking for some cease of
time, a cove carved out of
lime, where a pod of echoes
soaks itself in brine.


Copyright 2011 Hans Ostrom

How To Be A Sonnet

Re-posting one from a few years ago:


How To Be A Sonnet

You have to utter what you have to say
Iambically, and then you must transmit
Whatever poet using you that day
Decides that she or he desires to get
Across compressedly and cleverly.
However well you carry out this task,
Please know, my dear, that you'll fail utterly.
For every sonnet-sampler now will ask,
"How can this upstart thing even presume
To carve its iambs anywhere as well
As Shakespeare's little monuments that loom--
Or all the sonnets that still help to sell
Anthologies to students who view verse
As if it were a body in a hearse?"

Copyright 2007 Hans Ostrom

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Self-Loathing

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Self-Loathing


He wasn't opposed, in principle,
to self-loathing. Some people spoke
highly of the condition, as if it bore
a certain status. It's just that

he figured he couldn't afford
to give the people who disliked him
even one more team-member.

Liking himself seemed to be
the correct strategy in this world.

He knew he was no bargain. He
knew he said things like, "He's
no bargain, that's for sure,"
too much--old-fashioned expressions.

. . .And a hundred other flaws,
at least. Still: self-loathing?

No way. He didn't mind loving
his enemy, in theory, but helping
his enemy hate him? He just didn't
see how that penciled-out.


Copyright 2011 Hans Ostrom

Rock, Paper, Scissors

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Rock, Paper, Scissors


Rock: baby on your shoulder, parent--
rock your child to sleep. If you think
it takes too long, you'll know you're
wrong. Infancy, childhood, adolescence...
like a bullet train.

& Roll: a wonderful noise we
gave and received, thanks to R&B
& those blues women and men &
those folk men & women from
hills and fields and hollows,
from juke joints and plank porches.

Rocks: he grew up with them.
Boulders in the way, on the way,
of the wall, all rolled around by
glaciers and long-gone rivers.
Heat of boulders in the sun:
like touching the hard hide
of some still beast.

Paper is civilization.

Some of us lived much of our lives
on paper, feeding on words, scribbling,
scribbling. To us these pulpy tissues
were endless plains we trekked upon.

Murderous reports, condemnations,
memos, agreements, Solutions, Acts,
laws, sentences, secrets: By means of
such papers, nations ask Reckoning
and Doom to RSVP.

Scissors: a disagreement so ritualized,
it's synchronized, and so it cuts--
two people who never should
have gotten married.

Cutting clippings out--back when
newspapers were made of paper,
and of news. Back when someone,
maybe you, got noticed, noted,
in some local immediate lore.
Dear God, what are such memories for?

A paper bookmark. How thin, how fit,
how kind, how deft! Obliquely, how seductive!

Copyright 2011 Hans Ostrom

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Under a Blue Umbrella

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Under a Blue Umbrella

Something about opening a blue
umbrella, its handle too short, and
with some kind of tassel, made me
tell a truth to myself: You've been a fool
your whole life. I kept moving, no sense
stopping for such a flabby epiphany.

Rain pixelated puddles on black asphalt.
I sensed somewhere some machine
had pulverized my so-called achievements,
worked them back into the soil which hosts
that strange weed, ambition.

Your ridiculous clothes (at least you have
some), your absurd activities (at least
you're well enough to be foolish), your
denial of your standing appointment
with oblivion!.... This is a sample of
my extended remarks to myself.

--Not a whisper of self-pity, I am
pitifully proud to say. No whining
in the rain. Just a fool under a sad
contraption made of tinny metal
and a slippery fabric. Wind inverted
the umbrella, exposing its ribs and
my head. I struggled to re-shape
the thing.  --Poor imitation of a

Buster Keaton schtick. (And does
anyone remember Buster Keaton?)
--Just a fool under a blue umbrella--
with wet shoes (at least you have shoes).

In the automobile and going home
became a way to try to minimize
further indictments of myself. There
were the flapping wipers to control,
the turn-signal, the radio . . . .

Copyright 2011

Monday, November 7, 2011

Playing a Landscape

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Playing a Landscape

Landscape with musical notations:
a fine proposal: each time a squirrel,
toad, bear, bird, or lizard touches a note,
which could be masked as stone or leaf,
that note is played. Vast wild crops
of Be-bop! Seeds of salivation in
the breeze! Gusts rustle up cracked

chords and sprung melodies til air
is stoned with unchained jazz and
re-reverb-ed echoes. Hell yeah, painter,
paint me into this big picture. I'm

there, wet pigment in my hair;
me running around, stomping on
some quarter-notes, shouting
Hey now to all y'all, released into
a tunacy, far from this mausolemuseum
which I shall call today these Workaday Estates.


Copyright 2011 Hans Ostrom

Friday, November 4, 2011

Regarding Math

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Regarding Math

(problems, indeed)


Among his several problems with mathematical equations
was that he had no trouble letting x be x and y be y. He
silently advised them to remain letters. He did wish for them
that they didn't have exponents sitting on their shoulders
like unseemly growths. Also a problem is that he saw

both sides of an equation as art--assemblages of parentheses,
letters, numbers, and other symbols--and he didn't care
what they stood for.  They stood for the image they created.

Then there was the problem of his seeing--there, in the middle--
an equal-sign.  He thought, if each side is content to be equal
to the other, who am I to intrude on this amicable truce?
They were the same, apparently, so let them be. He didn't

care to know their secrets.  Forced to solve an equation,
he did so, but it never felt like success, and he never
recalls anyone explaining why equations had to be solved.

He does remember sitting next to pretty girls in math class
and smelling their hair and their thin sweaters, and looking
at their painted nails, and thinking, "Let these girls
stand for beauty. Yes, let's equate them with allure."

Copyright 2011 Hans Ostrom

"When It's Cold and Raining," by Rumi

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Harvest Blade

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Harvest Blade

Hockey players in uniform float
down a river enlarged
by a massive ice-melt far away.

They hold their sticks high,
rudders without boats. Look, now:
they're followed by last year's

Queen of the Adrenalin Parade,
dressed in a gown of
acetylene blue-and-white.

She rides on a raft made
of synthetic whale-bones.
Violinists from broken

orchestras line the river-bank,
serenading all things that pass
on floods.  In shallows,

fish hear strings' vibrations, shimmer;
and shiver. And the glare from the sun
is a blade. It is a harvest blade.

Copyright 2011

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Allen Ginsberg and Neal Cassady

This short video is amusing--Neal Cassady seems to perplex Allen Ginsberg as Cassady speaks of Armageddon and "extremists," which probably include Ginsberg:

Ginsberg and Cassady