Greenwood Encyclopedia of African American Literature

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Getting Old: An Introduction

You'll admit you always had the illusion
you were almost hip, sort of with-it, and
you'll admit that you never were and that
you're now completely out of step. Bones

and muscles will ache as easily as they used
not to. To the extent you had personal enemies,
they'll either be dead now or seem
ludicrous--like you.  Hair

will have grown in places you hadn't
imagined hair could grow, as in  for example
the inside of your ears. By turns, you'll want
to cry out "Leave me alone!" and "Please

notice me!" If the young notice you,
they'll look through you. Lust won't leave
you. It will just badger you and make
you seem creepy. In fact, this is a country

for old men and women.  The problem
is simply that age doesn't earn you anything
special, and pneumonia's always
out there, waiting like a burglar,

and nobody cares what you know.


Copyright 2012 Hans Ostrom

Monday, November 26, 2012

"The Mid-Day Moon," by John Banister Tabb

Of Time and the Poets

While Since was settling its accounts
with time, Then subsequented itself
right on down the line. And Because
pretended to be more influential
than it was, as Correlation made
real differences and, well, caused
a bit of buzz. Later, when Eventually,
Never, Seldom, and Once raided the place,

narrative lost face, storytellers
interrupted each other, and poets
withdrew to a corner where
not-that-much-happens, and
where plots are as tedious as
blueprints and Immediately
shouts, "Can I get an Amen?"

Copyright 2012 Hans Ostrom

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

"Storm Ending," by Jean Toomer

Retirement Communities Advertise (Of Course They Do)

The retirement communities, where retirements
live in groups, advertise themselves. They
feature images of people who seem vibrant
like earthquakes, active like yeast, and
damned White, if you ask me.

I'm closer to living in such a place
than I was yesterday. I guess this
is true of a lot of people. My hip
aches, so I won't have too much more
to say here (a lie) than I wish the ads weren't

so cheery: It's basically the same appeal
that's used to get American children to get
their parents to buy cubic tons of stuff made
in Asia.  Except now the kids are indirectly
urged to shelve the Old Man and Ma here,
and not there. I'd prefer ads narrated

by Charon from his ferry. "Come on down!
We're at the corner of Styx and Acheron!"
Or a riff on Bergman's white-masked Death
playing chess. "It's your move . . . into
assisted living!"  Or an actor playing
Robert Johnson singing, "Meet me
at the crossroads, baby. We'll eat
some peas and mashed potatoes."

Or how about this: "Look, it's a
dormitory for the gray, it's okay
to smoke weed, and we promise
not to bother you or make you pray.
We don't guarantee it, but you
might get laid, somehow, some way."


Copyright 2012 Hans Ostrom


Monday, November 19, 2012

In the Last Gangster Movie

In the last (what the the fuck took so long?) gangster movie,
the Italians and the Irish and the Russians and who the fuck
else cares kill each other.  Fat illiterate loud men in track suits
self-immolate, Martin Scorcese and Francis Ford Go Fuck
Yourself retire, and
brains exploding on walls no longer appeal:
well what a fucking surprise!

"It's just a bunch of stupid men
killing each other, and most of them
seem to be Catholics and, you know,
underachieving," observed an observer.

Roll out the fucking Brooklyn, Little Italy,
Atlantic City, Las Vegas, Dildo-ville accents.
Lay out the buffet of sociopathic practices.
And then, for fuck's sake, go away
forever and always. Badda-boom,
badda-fucking-bore.


Hans Ostrom 2012

"Autumn Scene," by Basil Dowling

Have It History's Way

Shaggy evergreens shrug and sway in a rainstorm.
Ezra Pound wasn't much for trees--Wordsworth-weary,
I suppose. Couldn't see history in or through them.
Instead he thought of rocks, layered, and of drills.
He was an American engineer. He wanted

comprehensive control of culture as if it were
acreage for the over-taking. Mineral rights.

But history's circulatory, and it's wet. It's
flexible, weird, and mysterious. Try to package
it, and you'll lose the magic. Impose upon
it, and it will flee like an Idaho mountain lion.

No, don't drill it, as if you were going
to set a charge, blast some ore.  Receive
it easy like a storm, shrug and sway and stay
surprised by it, and you will have its way with you.


Copyright 2012 Hans Ostrom

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Weary of Movie Acting

Sometimes I get fed up
with the "great" acting
movie-actors enact.

I watch a scene,
and I think, "These
are famous people

doing something
for which they're
famous." I look

at the make-up,
the mannerisms,
the evidence

that the director
has had to suck up
to the celebrity.

I don't give even
one fuck what
the alleged

"story" is about.
I see angles, noses,
lips. I listen

to the goddamned
dubbing. I see how
the famous actor

demanded better
lighting and lots
of money

on "the back end."
They are acting up a storm.
And I am weary. 

And what do I do?
I go read a novel in
well worn paperback form.


Copyright 2012 Hans Ostrom

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Voting Biblical Principles

Someone encouraged me
to vote for Biblical principles
in a recent election. I didn't
see any on the ballot.

Well, now, there was
this one thing about supporting
a bond to maintain bus-routes
in this city. I know how
working people have the Devil's
own time getting to and from
work, shops, family, and clinics.

Although Jesus Christ
never rode a bus, only
a donkey, I still figured
voting to pay to keep up
the bus-routes wasn't
anti-Biblical.  Right?

The measure failed.


Copyright 2012 Hans Ostrom

Monday, November 12, 2012

Today I Am Sure

Today I am sure
most of the poetry
written by William Blake
is unnecessarily complicated
and more or less
a pain in the ass.

Today I am sure
that life is the art
of delaying what is
inevitable and
accelerating
what is recalcitrant.

Today I am sure
that greed
is a disorder,
an addiction that blinds
the sufferer
and corrodes society.


Copyright 2012 Hans Ostrom

Friday, November 9, 2012

Refuse to Race

Whatever happened to what happened?
I knew Chronos was quick, but now it seems
to have vroomed some more velocity.

Even the young with hard thighs, smart
lies, brassy brains, and big chests
seem prematurely nostalgic.

If you're always trying to catch up,
for God's sake and yours, stop.
Settle down in being

behind and let the future go
fuck itself--because it's going to
anyway.  This thing's a race

only if you agree to run.


Copyright 2012 Hans Ostrom

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Teaching

You may lead a horse to water.  The horse
may not be thirsty. Or the intuitive animal
might smell something wrong about the
water--or be spooked off it for another
reason.  The horse may also have no
particular cause to trust you. If the
horse doesn't drink this time, it may
drink later, and it will probably remember
where this trough or pond or creek is.

So don't be in a rush to give up,
declare failure (the horse's), and
congratulate yourself for doing
all you could.  Try a different way.
Look for different water.  And anyway,
people aren't horses, so there's that.


Hans Ostrom, 2012

Bill Monroe - father of bluegrass

Homage to Johnny Cash: "Johnny's Waltz," by Tim Lulofs (song by Lulofs/O...

"BoJangles Biscuit," by Marty Silverthorne

"Lack of Steadfastness," by Geoffrey Chaucer

Friday, November 2, 2012

The Economy Needs the Poor



“The economy needs the poor,” says
a wee lad  on the precipice of a bachelor
of arts in economics to me. He’s the son
of some remote dickhead CEO in France

One of the brightest students I’ve ever taught,
a Black and Latina woman from
Oakland (she likes the 49ers, I like the
Raiders, we riff on that) says, “The
political science students on campus
are the least culturally competent—
they’re not equipped for this society.”

Today, this month, November 2012,
I think, well, Whiteness will have its
way: cocaine-speed-meth capitalism, fuck-you-
we’re going to fucking war, if you’re a
thinking person, then go fuck yourself,
we will dominate you, we always have,
so suck our illiterate radioactive dicks.
 
Old, I wish to God it would be different
for the thinking young I know.  You don’t
know how much I wish that this were so.

I wish God would empower them.
And then I look at the mainstream shit
they all must countenance, and I think,
“God damn it, the demons have won.
The motherfucking super-rich have won.”


Hans Ostrom, 2012


"My Heart, Being Hungry," by Edna St. Vincent Millay

Elections

In this our word-meat phase,
we control-alt-delete
soothing Constitutional lullabies.

Technicians drive translucent
needles into our representatives'
brains to lubricate the legislative

mastication. From under sheets
of plastic ice, we can't see Government.
It is a rumored air-ship high above.


Hans Ostrom, 2012