Greenwood Encyclopedia of African American Literature

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

"The Brevity of Life," by Ernest Dowson

"Crow Installation," by Hans Ostrom

A crow had crapped
on a gray sidewalk
this morning:

a big blopping dollop
of liquid in a heart-shape.

A gray-green dominated
this installation
of public art, with

undertones of blue-black
and a swirl of white:
fantastic! The consistency
was that of diluted
acrylic paint.


hans ostrom

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

"Look Younger With Natural Ingredients," by Hans Ostrom

Look younger
with natural ingredients. Look
natural with younger
ingredients. Eliminate

bags and wrinkles. Bag
those wrinkles in
wrinkled bags. Yeah,
you're going to look

younger, according
to yourself. To others,
you'll look the age
you are; still.

People you're
attracted to won't
be attracted to you:
nothing new.

But you'll feel younger.
Briefly. Maybe. Give it a try!
Four easy payments. Shipping
and handling not included.

hans ostrom 2014

"Above the Dock," by T.E. Hulme

"The Arrow and the Song," by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Monday, April 28, 2014

"The Anguish," by Edna St. Vincent Millay

"Now That Phones Are With Them," by Hans Ostrom

 ("Is this a good time to call?" --Old Saying)


Now that phones are with them,
everywhere and always,
it is always
and never a good time to call. Life,
a series of interruptions,
has become a shattered series

of interrupted, re-continued,
dis-directed ruptures. Like
a batty princess to a frog,
people speak loudly at something
in their palms.  Confused
courtiers look on.

One hand's fingers
tap like spiders' legs
on plasti-glass surfaces.
Apps become vats
into which to pour
attention. Heads bent,

faces slack, eyes distracted:
people's minds leave their
bodies to go to that other space,
that cloud which is forever
and presently calling.


--hans ostrom 2014

Monday, April 21, 2014

"Pecking Disorder," by Hans Ostrom

The smallest chicken listened
again to the rooster, spikes
on his ankles, red gristle
below the throat. Again

the rooster seemed to be
throating things like
I'm a dictator, I'm boss,
a movie star am I, a
celebrity, a CEO, a pastor
of a mega-church, a
full professor, a senior
partner, a Wall Street
broker, a stand-up joker!

The rooster's crew then
came over to pick at
the smallest chicken,
who took it, and who

after they finished,
amused itself by picking
at the chicken-wire,

until, one night, a
hole appeared and a coyote
entered.  In the morning,
the smallest and only
remaining chicken
picked its steps through
what bones were left
and feathers and blood,
gristle and spikes and
beaks. It walked through

the hole, proclaiming nothing,
and was picked up by
the soft hands of a god
from that place the smallest
chicken had always thought
to be a bigger chicken-house. 

hans ostrom copyright 2014

Friday, April 18, 2014

"Canal Dream," by Hans Ostrom

Oh, lovely nightmare
of the canal and futile,
panicked paddling, I do
love to wake from you
with you. A film

of absurd residue
coats my grogged
consciousness. You
depart like a cool
lover. I get up and

get into a day,
which joins other
days I haven't understood.
Dearest canal-nightmare,

you're so easy
by contrast to these
lived days. I enjoy
working with you.


hans ostrom 2014

"City of Things," by Hans Ostrom

In the city of things, people
defer to heaps, piles, and stacks
of plastic and alloyed molded
things. The people are stopped
by stacked boxes, so they go
around or give up and sit
and lie. The people agree

to purchase, to take on and put
on a quota of things, a pre-set
set of things. The people
pray to things with the aid
of Thing Preachers in thing-
choked halls and littered
amphitheaters. Austere

and escetic people are shunned,
fined, scorned, and watched.
They're forced to wear
designated denigrating things.

It's quite thing, the city
of things, where over-abundance
is unlimited, loved, and legislated.
I got cut in the city
by an angular thing
I bumped into. I said I
am sorry to the thing.


hans ostrom 2014

"Young Woman on Old Skates," by Hans Ostrom

So she nibbled at the
right-hand bit, and did not
venture to go near the house til she had
brought herself down to nine inches high.


--Alice in Wonderland


This late April day spends its last light
on a river of milky windshields
in aggravated suburban traffic.
Where did I come from that I alone,
walking, should witness this young woman
in her absurd determination? Thirteen, perhaps,

high-waisted in blue-jeans, she stands
uneasily on silver skates--bony and awkward,
a victim of legs like a young giraffe.
A hundred lavender blossoms
cover the concrete driveway where she stands;
they accumulate over the inevitable oilstain
left by a wound in the belly of her father's Ford.

Just as I walk past she finally decides
to try the skates. Now I see one hand
clutches a bunch of the fallen blossoms.
They puff out from her fist like a handkerchief.
Stiff-kneed, she scrapes forward and bends--to
do what?--to gather more blossoms.
I won't stop and embarrass us. I look back
to see several petals fall from her grasp;
her skates choose this moment to mutiny.
Her knees knock together, she surrenders
and falls carefully forward. For an instant,

her face says, "My body makes no sense at all."
Her ritual makes no sense at all.”
Her blue sweater hikes up her back; the wind roughs up her hair
like an obnoxious brother; no doubt Daddy will be
wheeling in at five-thirty-sharp to conquer
the driveway. Grimly she begins her ascent to equilibrium,
grabbing two fist-fulls of flowers.
From almost a block away I can hear her skates scrape and sing.



hans ostrom, 1977/2014

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

"Discreet Books," by Hans Ostrom

Old books, discreet, keep what now
seems naive, quaint, or embarrassing
enclosed, hidden in stacked pages
between covers. Replayed TV episodes

lay bare what's now funny
for the wrong reasons. They
show how the writers
sank their lives into a wicked,
remunerative genre bound
to betray them as now

they sit in fine houses,
their bodies ravaged
by the stress of the Industry,
looking at the spines
of novels they've collected.

Faint noise of grandkids
splashing in the blue pool,
Hollywood hills, reaches
the interior, paid for
by residuals. It was,
it is, a living, and as Sam
Johnson said, "No one but
a block-head writes
for anything but money."


hans ostrom 2014

Friday, April 4, 2014

"She's Checking," by Hans Ostrom

in the Parkway Tavern, Tacoma,
i'd been drinking lemonade
for a half-hour or so.

a different waitress
came to the table. i
wondered if waitresses
and waiters like
to be called servers
now or not. i kept
this question to myself.

anyway, she said,
"what are you drinking?"
i said, "lemonade."
she said, "we don't have
lemonade." i said,
"i have been drinking
lemonade." she said,
"well, i'll check."



hans ostrom