Greenwood Encyclopedia of African American Literature

Thursday, November 20, 2014

"The Fiddler," by Lola Ridge





"Apocryphal Couples"



Attila and Heidi Hun are making an RV run
from East to West.
Captain and Margo Ahab peddle pleasure-crafts
on the Gulf Coast.
Gregor and Donnie Mendel enjoy amateur
entomology in their spare time.
Sisyphus performs the boulder-roll
at Cirque de Absurd in Vegas,
where his girlfriend, Missyphus,
deals blackjack.
Matsuo and Yoshi Basho run
a very successful outdoor-adventure
business in Colorado and Chile.
Pancho and Vivienne Villa
just signed with a cable network
to do their own Reality Revolutionary
show. Exciting!Huck Finn
sells insurance for a firm
owned by Jim X in Chicago,
which he finds to be a might cold.
He and Becky Thatcher
have been seeing each other.


hans ostrom 2014





"Sonnet on Approaching Italy," by Hans Ostrom






Wednesday, November 19, 2014

"No Greatest Country"


Nobody lives in "the greatest country in the world,"
which is a phrase, not a nation.
Nobody and Plato's hologram.

Wouldn't a good nation cherish its skeptics,
partly because politicians and other
propagandists don't?

No one's more patriotic than a dictator:
fallacious reasoning, sure, but
nonetheless worthy of a cautionary pause.

Often I listen to a voice in me
that recoils from appeals to patriotism
because they feel like extortion.


hans ostrom 2014





Tuesday, November 11, 2014

"Fall Sticks in the Craw," by Hans Ostrom


Fall sticks in the craw like the n
in autumn.
It's the season of anxiety attacks,
layoffs,
ritual remarks about leaves and
crisp air, unholy holidays:

Halloween's become an anomalous
appendage,
Thanksgiving a clot of travel and a
ghastly food-orgy.

The cafes start serving
goddamned pumpkin-milkshakes
they still
call "coffee-drinks."

I shouldn't be so negative.
Or I should be
more negative: indecision in
post-equinox days.

True, it's a good time
to get food
to people who have little,
so that's an opportunity.



"The Dog Ate the Eucharist," by Hans Ostrom

Bob reported that a dog
had gotten into the parish kitchen
and eaten the eucharist-bread
that some members of the parish
had baked, special.

The incident caused some alarm
and may have raised theological questions.

One imagines Jesus
liked dogs, which
do right by poor folks,
for instance.

Of course, Bob wanted
to know whose dog it was.


hans ostrom 2014



Monday, November 10, 2014

"Jet Mesh Piety," by Hans Ostrom


eat jet mesh torture titanium
sputum bomb narcotic venture
diablo diablo marble
cock monument founding fodder
napalm rape scorch truth
lacerate rain birther denier
two-way radioactivity prison
for profit arrest race excuse
blast joke smug supremacy
handler a good citizen is
a surveilled citizen a
notwithstanding militia drive
hate lynch beat quiche white wine
burn bomb
lie flag diablo diablo

how long, how long? shit slogan
teeth monster informant
invade under cover infiltrate
threat-level sizzle children
scream laugh joke shiv spike
puke piety spit gooooooooooood
god market share percentage
dow jones up on news of hell
vomit poison oil remain upbeat
a good citizen thank our men
and women in uniform yeah-right
thank them how? flesh kill grin
suck murder waste policy foreign
domestic crisis domestic violence
domesticity loathe diablo
gotta keep on through it all gotta
keep on gotta. gotta


hans ostrom 2014




"Big Ol' Teeth," by Hans Ostrom


Several decades old, he finds it hard to believe
that a dentist proposes braces for his teeth,
to make money, of course, but technically
to close up those gaps, the ones that apparently
terrify strangers (but not children or animals)
when he smiles, laughs, or snarls. For fun,

he attributes his big, relaxed teeth
and the enormous smile (quite vulgar, actually)
to a Viking heritage. He wonders if it's
a berserker's grin. Important detail:

he hadn't asked the dentist about braces,
and the teeth are in good shape. Typical.
He has always received unbidden advice
about his teeth and everything else.
(The general heading for filing
such advice is, What the fuck
is wrong with people?)

One of his aunts had teeth
behind her wisdom teeth.
He suspects something atavistic
lurks in his DNA. Sabre-tooth
cat? Hyena? Shark?

War, famine, poverty, racism, etc.
go on, so he's not about to spend
excess thought on his teeth, which
work fine, fantastic omnivore-tools.

"Do you floss with rope?" a pretty girl
once asked him at a college party.
Not a bad joke. Apparently his big ol'
teeth transfixed her, for she stared.
Her teeth were suburban straight and white,
as all Americans are supposed to be, right?

He provided deep background. "My parents
asked the dentist when I was ten if I should
have braces. But the dentist said my tongue
is too big and would just push the teeth
out again, and the gaps would come back."

"Really?" she said, attempting to look
inside his mouth, as if he were about
to run in the Derby. She was thinking
about his tongue. He was, too,
in a roundabout way.


hans ostrom 2014



Monday, November 3, 2014

"Recent Musical Scores," by Hans Ostrom

And from our sports and arts desk . . .,
the following recent musical scores:

Beethoven 5, Debussy 3; Buddy Guy, 18, over
Eric Clapton's 4, Bessie Smith outdistancing
Barbara Streisand, 283 to 146; Beyonce

tied with Clara Smith, 102-102; Bill Monroe 98,
Hank Williams, Sr., 83; and finally Charles Ives
edging Benjamin Britten, 31-30, in a very
close match.


hans ostrom 2014



"Piano Ready to Roll," by Hans Ostrom

A piano's lacquered
surface serrates light
from outside, turns it into
a gothic, cubist
rendering
of a keyboard
that looks
a bit like a bar-code.

As music, that image
might be from Monk
or Ives, James P. Johnson or maybe
Chopin
as phrased by Rubenstein. Anyway,
it's all invented and then
rearranged. By all I mean all.

And look, they bolted
this piano to a frame with three
big wheels. That's some serious
industrial-revolution nonsense.

So roll that lovely hunk of thumps,
shadows, and singing strings into
a misplaced bay where your
emotions go sometimes into exile.



hans ostrom 2014




Everyday Speech #3--The 'S' Word in the U.S.



The 'S' word--shit: virtually ubiquitous in U.S. talk. (The rest of the world observes, "We knew all along you were full of it!")

I was reminded of the ubiquity when Carter Monroe, poet, publisher, novelist, and sage, sent me the following list:

Good as shit
Bad as shit
tasty as shit [most amusing]
fast as shit
slow as shit
hard as shit
soft as shit
funny as shit
mad as shit
interesting as shit
boring as shit
smart as shit
stupid as shit

Then there's "I'm tired of this shit" or the working person's generalized complaint, often muttered with a sigh, "Well, . . . shit."

And the universal exclamation of praise: "Great shit!"

And the universal exclamation of dissatisfaction: "Shitty!"

If not an empty signifier, it is at least word that will wear any disguise.

True, other cultures like their shit-words, but most probably don't deploy it as variously as the U.S.

In the 1970s, one heard, "Man, that's some good shit," in re: some of the worst marijuana in the history of humankind. Stems and seeds, as we used to say, back when people apparently smoked stems and seeds. Or so I've heard.

Of course, Freud might have observed something about childhood development and literal shit when examining such a list, and Americans are known for their arrested development (eternal teen-agers, is the rap on us), but there's just no way to prove that kind of speculation. I think it has more to do with Americans' predilection for efficiency in *some* areas of speech, with American coarseness (which even "refined" people like to flaunt so as to project another dimension to their image, or so they think.

When I or anyone else made a hash of something on the construction-job, my father, boss, would occasionally say, "That looks like a mad woman shit." Fantastically colorful expression, so to speak. I don't know why it had to be gendered. That inclination to depict women as mad, perhaps: Sandra Gilbert and others have written about that.

Even when my brothers and I were young lads, the Old Man's parenting style was end mischief as quickly as possible, usually with a direct order: "Knock that shit off" = stop what you're doing. Or "Don't be such a shit-head" or "Don't act like a shit-head to your brother." I responded well to such directives because they were clear, uncluttered, and I didn't get the feeling I was being trained in a broader sense, although "Don't act like a shit-head to [in this case] your brother" does implicitly look forward to shit-head-less days.




Saturday, November 1, 2014

Galway Kinnell

Sad to see that poet Galway Kinnell died.

I remember seeing/hearing him read at U.C. Davis in the late 1970s. It was in a relatively small classroom in Olson Hall, next to Sproul.

I recall he read a poem about not being with his mother when she died. A kind of Freudian poem, for lack of a better description, that was not rare in those days, as Freud's influence hadn't waned quite yet.

I also recall a poem in which the speaker tries to talk someone out of suicide, or at least thoughts of suicide. After he read the poem, Kinnell said, "I have to admit, it wouldn't convince me, either."

Self-deprecating, at least at that reading, and the broad, craggy face and what used to be called "an unruly shock of hair."

Fine free-verse poet.




"Conscience and Remorse," by Paul Laurence Dunbar