Greenwood Encyclopedia of African American Literature

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Garbanzo Opera

When I was six, garbanzo
beans felt like grainy
mud-pebbles to my mouth.
They tasted like a menacing

nothing. When I picked
them out of a salad
and marched them to the edge
of the plate, a parent's

order became inevitable:
"Finish them." Finishing them,
I gagged. They became
soft bullets of

esophageal assassination.
Now I love the little
bastards. I bathe them
in olive oil, bequeath

unto them garlic and pepper.
I now know their nom de
guerre: chick peas.
People may not

change, but their taste-
buds do, and I would pay
good money to go to
see a garbanzo opera.



hans ostrom 2013

Corporations Keep Rats

Corporations keep rats.
They keep them running.
The rats have some cash,
which they pay
the corporation for stuff
the corporations make.
Run there! Pay here!

The bait is technology.
Hey,rat, run after
the new eye-fone 18.3Z!
Pay cash first! Or
put it on a rat-card!

Imagine if the rats
turned around one day
and said, Rat Master,
we don't want any
more stuff right now.
We like the look
of your throat. That's
what we want. For free.



hans ostrom 2013

Thursday, October 24, 2013

How White Operates, Too Often

Way too often, White
goes out like a boomerang
toward what is right
and fair and just, only
to turn in reactionary air

and curve home, home,
to righteous hate, selective
outrage, a change of "heart,"
smug safety, reunion with
old friends, and other amenities
of the supremacists' field
from which
the boomerang
was launched.

Whether you're Black
or White or something else,
here's the thing: if
you truly "get it,"

then you will know
what "it" is, and
you'll nod at
the tautology
(for sure),

and so,
you know,

no doubt
gratuitously,
I advise:

Beware of the White
radical, the White liberal,
the White conservative, and
it goes without saying
the White unapologetic bigot
spewing hate like a spigot.

Beware of them all. Be
unsurprised if they turn
back, if they curve a return to
"home," if, in fact,
they simply are not able.

For they are simple and White,
terrifyingly simple,
and they live
in a White-rewarding world,
and in most cases,
over the long haul,
they are not able.
They just aren't able.


hans ostrom 2013

Computer As Penis, Penis As Computer

You have unused icons on your penis.
Your penis is at risk: no firewall is turned on.
Your penis will restart in 30 seconds.


Would you like a full or partial scan
of your penis?

Your penis needs updating.
Would you like to upgrade to Penis 3.0?

The program, penis.dic has
encountered an error.

Please restart your penis.

Download the latest version of penis.dic.

Scan your penis for malware?

Scan has detected 8 problems with your penis.

Report as penis-spam?

You are forbidden from accessing this penis-page.

New penis.dic software is available.

Your penis hard-drive has crashed.

Report error to penis.dic?

Please tell penis.dic about this problem.

Would you like to change your penis password?

Log off penis?



hans ostrom 2013

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

"I Could Not Drink It," by Emily Dickinson

Triviality and Guilt

I celebrate your new coiffure
and worry about the hungry and the poor
at the same time. What
good does either trivial focus or guilt
do to affect big problems? I state
the question in a homely way.

I congratulate your hips
and fret over how White Americans
will never "get it"
(until they get it).
What good? Fuckin' white people.

I remark on a grey cat's
behavior and think of
our water on fire
our air carcinogenic
our land
either flooded
or
baked
our politicians
embalmed
with corporate money,
ah, what good?

I rest my teeth
on the image of a chrome fender
and I wonder
how many bombs "we"
have dropped, on what,
on whom, and why
(why not!)
since, say,
1941. What. Good?




hans ostrom 2013

Poli-Tics

Politics
Slit
Tic
Clot
Slop
It
Slip
Post
Plot
Lot
Cop
Lop
Sop
Cot
Lit
Lip
Lisp
List
Politics





hans ostrom 2013

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Steady As She Goes

Yes, it was in
that decade when
the first animated
cartoon-character
was elected to
Congress. Financiers
bought the Air Force--
all part of privatization.

Regarding privacy,
citizens played online
surveillance-games
and mugged for
the cameras they
knew about. Personal

letters were criminalized
for being inefficient
and vaguely subversive.
Through it all,

careers flourished.
The number of opinions
held remained steady.



hans ostrom 2013

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Sonnet for an Actress

(reposting one from way back)





You should have seen her yesterday.
She was more beautiful than our
Idea of beauty; and the way
She carried beauty in her hour

Unveiled achievement by a body
Unmatched by art. You should have seen
Her. Yes, our gaze was always ready.
What, though, did her beauty mean?

Did she embody what we thought?
Or did she teach us to desire?
And were we seeing what we sought,
Or held in spell by beauty’s choir?

Confused, nostalgic—what to say?
If you’d just seen her yesterday....



hans ostrom 2007/2013

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Failed Insults

Oh, you Kurdish book!

Don't give me that look, you fascinating nude portrait!

How can you live with yourself, hideous mildly tart apple pie?

Gesture of kindness, get out of town, hit the bricks.

Unpretentious professor, feeder of the hungry, calm presence, loyal friend:
you make me sick.

Working-class White male who isn't racist, I hope you're happy.


hans ostrom 2013

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

A Pre-Dating Conversation

She: Are you single?
He: Well, as you can see, I'm more like a double. But I always say I'm a party of one!
She: Are you interested in a commitment?
He: Not if it involves a state-operated institution. Hey, I've paid my debt to society.
She: What are your turn-ons?
He: Uh, women without clothes on and, uh, also women. Without clothes on.
She: Does anything about women threaten you?
He: If they have a gun, a knife, or a stupid ex-husband. Otherwise, no.
She: Where would you go on a first date?
He: Anywhere--any place where combat wasn't occurring.
She: What do you think about vegans?
He: I think they're so cute that I'd like to eat them. Just kidding.
She: Do you have a lot of baggage?
He: No. I have this real cool duffel bag and a really old Samsonite.
She: Do you like to communicate?
He: Yes, especially when I need something.
She: I'm not interested in playing games.
He: Me, neither. Especially board-games. And video-games. Soccer, too. I mean,
I could be talked into a game of ping-pong, but that's about it.
She: Are you romantic?
He: Fuck, yeah, I'm romantic. Roses, dinner, a new dress, jewelry. My thing
is: whatever it takes!
She: I don't think this is going to work out.
He: Yeah, I guess not. It's not you. It's me. How about a drink?

"The Sorrow of Love," by W.B. Yeats

Monday, October 14, 2013

"Towards Evening," by Hans Ostrom

Happeningness

The happeningness
of reality never pauses,
"is" being a fiction,
a slice of approximation
imagined to be there
between "was" and "will be."
No wonder wonder
sometimes tires me.


hans ostrom 2013

Saturday, October 12, 2013

"Penumbra," by Dante Gabriel Rosetti

Hello, Everything

Hey, Hello, Everything, I said,
trying to be polite.
Hi, Everything said, I'm busy.

Hey, Everything, I said,
I've worked in a pickle factory,
I've worked in a gravel plant,

I've pounded nails and washed pots
and taught rich kids and
dug trenches and written articles--

--Who cares? said Everything.
Everybody does something and there's not
much difference between

any of it. Oh, I said. Well,
how are things with you,
Everything? I'm always

changing, and I have to go,
and you're a loser and small,
said Everything. Bye.



hans ostrom 2013

"Storm Ending," by Jean Toomer

Monday, October 7, 2013

All Right, Now

Having successfully eluded
fame, he took
a long nap
and awoke refreshed.



hans ostrom 2013

The U.S. Congress, Observed

Have you been watching
these little legislative haters,
these law-mockers and logic-blockers
sent to the Hill (our Golgotha)
with cash stuffed up their pipes?

They've done no reading in history,
economics, philosophy, or science.
Their self-interest is artless, their
corruption as bald as a brass door knob.

It's a little like watching a person
with lousy reflexes drive a stock car
at Darlington or Daytona,
or some drunk college lad
pick a fight with a seasoned
body-guard. It can't end
well. Yes, of course,

after the wreckage, it will be we
who'll have to clean up
as best we can. Politics
now seems to have an endless
supply of punks, and
not the musical kind.


hans ostrom 2013

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Fall's Always Good for a Laugh

A large, allegedly evolved primate,

he passed through an exterior door

of his abode, intending to gather

a newspaper on the stoop (this

was in the last days of print-culture),

and he was caught in a spider’s web.

Webbing on his face, he looked

at the fat brown spider as it danced

like a portly Vaudevillian on its

filament, and he laughed.


hans ostrom 2013

Positionality

I've misplaced my subject-position. It happens.
According to the post-modernist rulebook, which
is only virtual, my default positionality is therefore
one of befuddlement, which could be a ruse, except
a ruse seems so pre-modern, even atavistic. One
thing's certain: I'm not a mystic. Positionality
is such a tricky business. If you write or speak

the word, "positionality," then you've pretty much
positioned yourself into a pretentious corner, and
the commonly insensitive Anglo-Saxon ax will fall
on your multi-syllabic Deluxe Latinate Impressor,
which comes with its two-speed abstractionator.

Cut to: a meadow. My subject-position transport-
system, a hot-air balloon, lies sideways and un-
inflated, mere fabric amidst flax-stubble. This
is Not A Problem. This is Laugh Out Loud.


[re-posted from 2008]

hans ostrom 2013

Friday, October 4, 2013

Quit While You're Ahead

Many times in his life he had heard
the advice, "Know when to quit while
you're ahead." Well, hell, he thought
at last, I never get ahead. Sometimes
I catch up, but that's about it. Otherwise
I'm always behind. So I think I need
to learn to know when to quit
while I'm behind.



hans ostrom

Of Them and Of Hiram

While the others
majored in pre-law,
Hiram majored in post-law.

While they practiced
their interviewing skills,
he fell in love with women--

in particular and as a
concept. While the others
began good careers,

Hiram drove on dirt roads,
found some employment,
and wrote odd poetry.

While they took over a
political Party and insisted
on hating Black people,

Hiram read Black authors,
listened to blues, soul,
and funk, and was politically

powerless. They sold their
souls. He rented his out, but
never for very long.

They dined on the entrails
of the poor. He grew
his own vegetables.




hans ostrom 2013

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Justice

justice
just ice
just is
in just
in jest
ingest
indigest
indigestion
indigest onion
in dig est
in dig o
o blue o blue o

injustice
in jester
no justice
no jest is
no just is

no peace
know peace
know piece
no peace
no peas
no pleas

no, pleas
no place
no justice no place
just please
just pleas
just peace
just us
justice



hans ostrom 2013

Race/Ism

Race is mmmm.
Racism is.
Racist.
Racyst.
Resist.
Re: racism:

White, White, White
Why it, Why it, Why it
Wyatt burp

Wee, Wee, Wee
Wit, Wit, Wit
Nit, Nit, Nit
Not, Not, Not
Knot, Knot, Knot
Know, Know, Know

No, no, no, no, no
no racism no
more.


hans ostrom 2013

The GOP

What used to be Eisenhower's Party
is now a toxic,
radioactive brew
of John Birch, Joseph McCarthy,
Orville Faubus, Jessie Helms,
the enfeebled Ronald Reagan,
Birth of a Nation,
the Bush Crime family,
Ayn Rand (speed freak),
and the KKK. Lord?
Help us.


hans ostrom 2013

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Sexuality

sexuality
sex you all, mais oui?
sex, oo, ah, & tea
sex, you, quality
sexual equality

sex you wall it. ee!
sex you wallet tee
sex, you all
sex you all at ease

sex, sex, sex
you, you, you
all, all, all,
it, it, it,
y, y, y

sex ual it y
fits you to a T
oh yes yes laugh at me
i like to laugh you see
i like to laugh, Lucy
you laugh, too, you/me
without humor, we

have no sexuality
we must be loose
loose/loosey, oh
sexuality



hans ostrom 2013