Greenwood Encyclopedia of African American Literature

Thursday, December 31, 2015

The Breakfast Special

Some people are ordering
the Breakfast Special
because it's the best they can do.
Some people are cooking
it. It's the best they can do.
This city is a city. It's
not the best it can do. At

the same time, it doesn't
exist. No cities do. They're
just jammed together
bits and people. This
is the point where poems
get into trouble and need to
stop. It's the best they can do.


hans ostrom 2015

Answer the Phone

Answer the phone. Will you please
get that? Nevermind. I'll get it!
They hung up. I don't know: the
number is blocked. This really
an insane time in telecommunication
history, isn't it? Why

don't you like to talk on the phone?
I don't understand you. What do
you mean "that part is accurate"?
Next time, you're going to answer
it. It's your phone! I'm not going
to answer it. And you owe me
an apology.


hans ostrom 2015

Horse for Sale

Good morning, horse for sale.
Hey should we shell out funds to buy
horse for sale? Let's not forestall.

Hello, horse in stall.
Your gray mouth is of soft
flannel. I guess we own

you now, horse not for sale.
You don't know we own
you, so we don't.

Shall we brush you now
and blanket you and feed
you oats? For you're

a horse for sure, a fine equine.
Not hers, not mine, not ours
Goodnight, horse your own.


hans ostrom 2015

Monday, December 14, 2015

Duke, Again

With Ellington, never
just one mood, ever
two or more.

State profoundly
something simple
but please

don't decorate.
Slip something
gut-bucket,

not quite profane
but close, into
urbane constructions.

Make smart choices.
Move efficiently
like a chess

assassin. The players
are the source:
so obvious, but

almost always
overlooked: Aristotle
understood. Remain

madly allergic
to cliche. Dodge in
and out of the fray.


hans ostrom 2015

Epistemological Hash: Sheesh

A cat for instance is routinely perplexed--
not alarmed but calmly
situated in ignorance, seeking to understand.
--Whereas humans
have evolved, so to speak, into the expectation
that they have a right to know
and understand all
in a big goddamned hurry. Often they state

that expectation with believed nonsense,
hideous lore, and all manner of bullshit.
And anyway, what if science epitomizes Zeno's
Paradox, always advancing but never
finally knowing, so that human seeking

finds that the essence of the universe
is never quite what and not really there--
not a bad prospect, if you think rationalism
sans romance is, albeit necessary, a
bit of a bore. I see
I've made quite a hash of things here.


--hans ostrom 2015

Friday, December 11, 2015

Listening to Monk


("Well, You Needn't")

Concerted jazz effort produces
a jazzerted zephyr forthwith.

No frazzling in the port, no
impertinence in the fort. A

rush of notes arranged by
practice and intuition

suggests at least a nod to
the transience of people and things.


hans ostrom 2015




Oakland Talk


Gertie Stein, Otis Sistrunk, Al Davis,
Mac Dre,Sharon Shore, Bert Camapneras,
Frank Epperson, and all, oh
where have you gone? You're hiding

in triplicate under the sun. That's
where you must to be. Oakland's changed
greatly and not at all. Always and forever
a hard place. I sat on a bench across from a bench
staked out by a homeless guy who dreamed
he was still a young man. I played

chess on my phone in Jack
London Square. What do you think
of that, Jack? After a red-headed woman
walked by and gained distance, the guy
on the bench said, in the growl of a carnival-barker,
"She's got a chin like Brunhilda!"

Neither a compliment, nor an insult:
that's Oakland talk. Silver and black,
Oakland slips out of your grasp like mercury.


hans ostrom





Death of a Myth


The Grudge Master is dead. He's grinding his axes
in Hell. He left us with nothing except our lives,
which from the first moment have not been enough
to sustain us. We're losers because we fight
to the death and then fight Death. Winners
hire people to fight on their behalf
in a fixed game.They use words like "behalf."

It is over It is over Every sign
Every signal, Every seagull and fat cow
has surrendered. We are nothing!
Therefore, celebrate. We are nothing!
Our shields are made of cardboard.
We're lost in a forest set on fire.
We desire someone to arc

her/his back, up and above us,
and come. Come for and by us and
with us. A trivial physical
apotheosis, true, but real and fierce.

We desire the sun, but someone owns
that, too (it had to happen). Ah,
put my profaned body in a cheap box,
throw a blanket in, and bury.
That's all, that's all, the myth is dead.


hans ostrom 2015




Monday, November 30, 2015

Juvenal in the Desert

Who pays for the trespasses of the satirist?
In my case, the satirist. For my imaginative
attacks, I suffer dull imprisonment
in this shabby oasis.

To their minds, I'm uncivil,
self-righteous, and worst of all,
correct. I record the bulbous
nose as bulbous, the politician
as compulsively depraved,
the dreadful poet as pitiful.
Who pities me? Here

I see melons. Leather bags of wine
and water. Camels chewing nothing,
smirking. These odd desert people
in their smelly garments who
with their brand of irony let
me know I'm free to leave at
any time. Actually, not. The
shape of women's breasts
still fascinate me. Late

in afternoons, a little drunk
(all right: a lot), I see in
warping sand a chastened city
where fools are not honored.
Are not in power.


hans ostrom 2015



Friday, November 27, 2015

Kings

In chess Hiram doesn't
like to move his White king except
for castling. Otherwise the king
sleeps, oblivious and kind, waiting
for nothing as in checkmate or
nothing as in checkmate.

The Black king, Hiram knows,
had to learn to move,
dissemble, and adapt
so as to make up for White's
eternal advantage, its
unearned, privileged edge.

In the end, both kings bore
Hiram. But the Black queen
and the White queen enchant
him, goad him into fashioning
a fantasy. He dreams of an
extravagant, satisfying threesome
with two women magically
embodied from the symbolism
of chess, fully human
and yet mythically erotic.

Yes, it's all brought to life there,
albeit in Hiram's mind,
directed by Fellini,
narrated by Nina Simone.

Sometimes chess isn't
exciting enough for Hiram.


hans ostrom 2015



Monday, November 23, 2015

The Retirement of Literature


After you teach what they used to call literature
for a long time, there are some poems and books
you don't want to teach anymore, not because
of something in them or on account of
the students but because you don't want
to submit the works to any further
analysis--by anyone, especially yourself.

You want these works to enjoy
retirement, lying in the sun,
simply existing as a collection of words
and punctuation, without a career.


hans ostrom 2015





Cows, Sun Loves You




The several stomachs of a cow brew
bilious cud out of grass and grain.
Excretion follows in due time
as cows create sweet brown mortar
that dries into thick discs.

Cattle consider and consider,
all day. They earned their Ph.D.s
in Bovinity. The sun created
them. The sun loves them.



hans ostrom 2015




Surrounding You

Fresh oxygen in cool air surrounds you
as do social contracts pulling you
into roles that weary and bore you.

Don't whine, even to no one,
you tell yourself, for you've
imported voices that force

conformity and sustain shame.
To the end, you'll be maneuvered
into doing shit you don't want to do.

Some of it may be necessary,
but not that much. Who needs
a dictator when people volunteer

to push each other around? No
wonder so many drop out any way they
can, often desperately, paced suicide.



hans ostrom 2015



Tuesday, November 17, 2015

"in unjust Spring"

(with apologies to e.e.)


"in unjust Spring
after the po-
lice state had arisen (peo-
were dis-
tracted)(fires
burned in Baltimore,well
known to be
a terribly terribly racist
city:plagued
by the pale doom of
american history.
Baltimore is all the rage
that builds up:frus-
tration & americans rather
likesitscities to die,
especially
black&brown
spaces,"
he spoke, in despair and not
knowing what else to do.



hans ostrom 2015




Collage Degree


I was just blowing up a balloon when
Italy won a soccer match
and Abraham Lincoln gave a speech
concerning railroad law. Then
Chairman Meow mad a cameo appearance
on Tahitian TV to discuss Titian's
use of shadow, and naturally
an abandoned ship sank off
and on an Aleutian island.

The phone rang virtually,
and gunpowder was invented.
Milton wrote a line with
an inverted hand while
Joan of Archimedes developed
a crush on a dark-haired
Viking. Frederick Douglass
scowled, and I have no idea
what I did with the utilities bill.


hans ostrom 2015




Excellent Persons


Like butterflies in fog, excellent persons
are often overlooked. They
perform the good and the necessary,
ameliorating cruelty,
appreciating the melody of words
like ameliorate.
\
They won't become celebrities.
Technically, they're suckers
who relinquish advantage.
They plant perennials in Fall.
They get shit done.


hans ostrom 2015



Friday, November 13, 2015

Hiram and Success


Hiram's tried success, and he's tried failure.
By a slim margin, he prefers failure,
maybe because success softened it.
Thing is, success attracts envy
like a wet towel growing mold.
Success needles you with its secret
knowledge of luck and inequality.
It demands repetition of you as it
sips a martini
and listens to "Is That All There Is?"

Failure's more authentic, says Hiram.
It's the experimenter's genial friend.
It's God's way of telling you to grow up.

Like a slim tick, shame tries to attach
itself to failure, but Hiram knows
nobody has to put up with that shit.
You own your failure; it's a sad chair
you built, and only you sit in it.
Yeah, then you do something else, go on
to another foolish errand
in an infinite universe.


hans ostrom 2015




Monday, November 9, 2015

It Equals Done


It's been done. It's all been
done. What is "it"? That's
just it. It's all been done for so
long, there's not more it,
and people madly try to make new shit,
but what they make's been done
before, so mostly what we get
is serious over-wroughting. Too

serious. Done, done differently,
"reinvented," done the old way,
the new way, the old new way,
the new old way. Done but not
really. Undone. A refusal to do:
not-doing in a way that ends up
doing it, again. It's been

nihilistically done, ground
to powder. Done in powder.
There's nothing left to be
done. But we have to something!
Let's do it!

hans ostrom 2015





Thursday, October 22, 2015

No, Chess Isn't War

Chess isn't war. It's opposite of
war. Non-violently, hands seize the medium
composing pieces, lie quietly, make
notes, or report silently on stress.

Considering chess, a mind's
distracted from plunder. Narcissism
is tucked into one corner, napping.
true, your ego might get nicked,
your imaginary status jostled.

Loss of coin? Possible, unlikely.
Otherwise, flies buzz. The worst
that can happen is that your "king,"
a figurine, must leave the checker-board
floor and stand on a table. That's it.

Chess is a minor miraculous mess
of angles invented by angels--
no, actually by thoughtful, playful
people in India and Persia. A parody
of royal courts, it's played democratically.


hans ostrom 2015




Sunday, October 18, 2015

The Chessboard

Apologies to Mr. Blake,
For heaven's sake.



Chessboard, chessboard, black and white,
In the subtle cafe light,
What Indian and Persian eyes
Fugued your fearful geometries?



hans ostrom 2015








Something It Did Not Used to Be

Especially confused by things he understands,
he finds himself in a recreated sector
of Oklahoma City called Bricktown,
which is cheek-by-jowl to Deep Deuce,
Charlie Christian's ground. Bricks

of the newly restored buildings to him
evince a muted somber red that alludes
to tragic mineral compounds
cooked hard and put up wet with mortar.

Restaurants, bars, and shops:
the holy trinity of tourism:
America, here is your culture,
kind of. He told this to nobody
but himself. And nobody
danced except in clubs, nobody
wove carpets, or improvised
sales negotiations, or read
poetry out loud. He understands
exactly why and remains puzzled.
Oh one more thing: "the martini"
had become something it did not used to be.


hans ostrom 2015



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Monday, October 12, 2015

Celebrities


CELEBRITIES IN BED

They itch, scratch, writhe, sleep, snore. Yes,
all right, sex too. Also mites. Mites are a
problem for celebrities as they are a problem
for everyone else.

CELEBRITIES IN PUBLIC

They present themselves like peacocks or rubbery statues; OR
they become sullen and withdrawn like badgers; OR both.

ATTENTION IS THE COIN OF THE REALM

Celebrities didn't invent this system, in which
attention is the coin of the realm, not money,
which is, albeit important, secondary. Celebrities
are attention-capitalists who leverage attention
to acquire more attention. Pay attention!

CELEBRITIES ON THE MOON

It was the result of a mass-expulsion.

ANGRY CELEBRITIES

The mixture of fame, money, entitlement,
indulgence, and self-loathing sometimes
explodes like a souffle.

CELEBRITIES IN THE U.S.

They are represented to us as people we imagine
ourselves being while still being ourselves,
although they know we can never be like them,
and they know why. We know why.

CELEBRITY GRAVEYARD

I asked a tombstone for an autograph.
It refused. I offered mine. It declined.

CELEBRITIES GET TIRED OF BEING CELEBRITIES

Retired from acting, Cary Grant liked to watch
TV and eat a modest meal on a TV tray at home. Greta
Garbo did not want to be alone; she wanted
to be left alone.

CELEBRITY IS A CHRONIC ILLNESS

Society suffers from celebrity.


hans ostrom 2015




Saturday, October 10, 2015

Christians and Guns

The senator called on all
Christians to arm themselves
with pistols and rifles
against something he saw in his head,
a space
also inhabited by oily sand dunes,
asymmetrical concrete blocks,
mud puddles, and small
household appliances.

And by Jesus, of course,
riding into town on a donkey,
his pistol holstered,
the rifle across his legs.

The senator can't find scripture
for his alarm, but that don't matter,
children; that don't matter.


hans ostrom 2015




Wednesday, October 7, 2015

A Night of Bluegrass

Go ahead and cut the top off-a that mountain
to get your coal, Mr. High Pockets. You
can't cut that high-pitched wail out of the air
where the mountain was
and shall ever be, in God's eyes.

And all them strings get picked and strummed,
chorded and teased, til a tune is tightly braided,
careful and true, like the long gray hair
of a matriarch reading her Bible in blue
moonlight, rocking and praying. She's

as heart-broken and reconciled as a ballad
about some young'ns gone too soon. Music
of the hills distills sadness, strains it
through an upright tradition
that Nashville goddamn tried to ruin.
But could not.


hans ostrom 2015






Friday, October 2, 2015

Concerning Doors


They're like Calvinist ministers. Merciless oak.
Posture rod-rigid. They're
like politicians; they force us to shake their hands.
They are like dancers: if they cannot swing
and sway, well hey, they would rather
fade into the wall.

They are like laws that sometimes come
between us, sometimes save us from our rage.

When a logger revs the chainsaw and draws
it across a Douglas fir, listen:
from all up and down two hundred feet
of poised timber comes the sound
of doors slamming in suburbia.

Driving the highway, you see them:
uniform, sad doors of motels,
all shut, all locked, all painted
yellow, one yellow bulb above each door.

Note that in the offices of power,
the closed doors are more powerful,
and are larger, than most walls.

In quick old comic films,
villains chased Our Silent Hero
down and across a corridor of doors.
One of the early schticks.

Swinging doors of the set of a
Western looked like a gambler's vest.
Comes the actor playing the slinger
bursting through, his spurs singing
in the sudden scripted silence
like crickets on a prairie. CUT TO:
outside: out through those weak
doors staggers a shot body, stiff
as a real door, then down the steps
and falling into dust. An
American narrative.

The last room alas is only as wide as
its door. You won't hear the pebbles knocking.



hans ostrom 2015





Wednesday, September 30, 2015

That's Right, Me & Keats


Beauty is false, and truth
can be ugly. That's some
of what we know but only
a little of what we need
to know. Keats's formulation

is beautifully circular.
Like the urn, real or
imagined, it's neither true
nor false. It just is, so
we like seeing. That's

right, John, we still like
looking at that ode.



hans ostrom 2015








Monday, September 28, 2015

Nobody Beats Tacoma


Here's how it works: Beginning as North 27th Street,
North 21st Street just gets its confidence up
when North I Street slugs it and takes over,
only to be vaporized by South Yakima Avenue,
which morphs into something called Thomson.
The streets of Tacoma are so mean they're
mean to each other. Nobody beats Tacoma. Nobody.

Seattle has forever misread the meaning of Point
Defiance. It's not a park or a peninsula,
or a place to play dress-up on your bike.
It is a destined middle finger pointed
vaguely north. Put a penny
on the railroad track down by the port,
and you might well summon Guy Fawkes,
Richard Brautigan, a Chinese laborer,
or a skeptical Puyallup woman, pre-contact.
Whoever it is will take your penny
and invest it in a cloud-cone
hovering above Rainier like the saucers
Kenneth Arnold saw. About the time

you think you have Tacoma solved,
you find yourself on a suspension-bridge,
with a dog, and the bridge starts
writhing like a boa constrictor. Then
it flaps and twists, snapping itself
free from blueprints, taking a dive
like a punch-drunk stevedore
trying to earn a buck at a smoker
in 1931. The dog lives. If you tell

the tattooed woman at the drive-in
that you ordered everything on your
burger, she will tell you, without
animus, "That is everything."
Nobody beats Tacoma. You have
to understand: Tacoma is more
than a grit city that keeps its
bourgeoisie on a leash like a pit bull.
Tacoma is a sense of humor.

Once you get that, it may take decades,
you'll understand everything. I
mean, really, after embedding
yourself in a group of eccentrics
at the Parkway, the Acme, or
the Goldfish Redux, you'll see
the folly in naming streets
and other ambitions. You'll realize
you are Nobody, the only person
ever to beat Tacoma. Good night.


2015 hans ostrom






Party of One


I walk around the city. I'm a one-person
parade. Wave to onlookers, hold to the route.
Nobody knows I'm being honored. That's okay.
I prefer it that way. I stroll proudly,
give thumbs up to stray cats, seagulls,
and insects. After it's over, I
head home. There's only so much
adulation this hero can take.


hans ostrom 2015



Running Late

Time-travel will not be impossible yesterday.
Tomorrow will purvey proper questions
about problems we shall have used-to ignore.

Time offers an infinitude of views
through which to perceive matter,
which has no purpose.

I'm leaving here to go there to buy
coffee and bread: these eleven words
and the universe predate me. I'm running late.



hans ostrom 2015






Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Murder Mystery


A certain curtain. An uncertain merchant.
Add a dead body. Subtract a dead body.
Multiply details of an atmosphere. Divide
clues. Some must be concrete, others
ethereal, and some as sodden as
milk-soaked cereal. Why

does the solver solve? That's the most
important motive. Who allowed
the murderer to become what the murderer
is? Indict them. Please

remember we are talking about language.
In a book, nobody really ever gets killed.
That's one of the great virtues of literature.


hans ostrom 2013






Selfish

Twilight: sky brighter than landscape,
which backs slowly into darkness.
Crows fly home, high for them. They
become wrinkled, animated black lines.

So much is wrong out there--
the city, the nation, the world.
One feels ashamed, obligated, compelled,
and weary. This evening I give in

greedily to privilege, sit outside with
headphones on, listening to Ellington
indigos, "Solitude," "Prelude to a Kiss,"
"Mood Indigo," a cover of "Autumn Leaves."

In my heaven, Duke is musical director.
September air, influenced by Puget Sound,
mixes with dimming light sublimely. Yes,
I said "sublimely." Insufferable.

I want for nothing except more commitment
to change some bad things.
How disgusting to write about oneself
at a time like this.


hans ostrom 2015





Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Refuge


Floriffic blossoms, heavy as toads,
bend green stems like blue notes. This
isn't paradise, only a shabby garden
beside a weary cocktail lounge on
some island somewhere. We're here
to feign the forgetting
of mainland failures, which
we blame on youth and ambition:
we have a point. These blossoms
are not cognizant of criticism
and other forms of judgery,
and that is why we like them.



hans ostrom 2015





Saturday, September 12, 2015

Authorities


It's obvious the authorities
ought to be reported
to some other authorities.


hans ostrom 2015



Friday, September 11, 2015

Death to Super-Heroes


Even people over the age of 10 now
seem enthralled with "super-heroes."
I don't take this as a good sign
about our culture. I'm the guy
walking the wrong way as a stupefied
crowd staggers toward me on its way
to a movie house that's playing
"Elbow Man" or "Spandex Woman"
or whatever this week's
piece of silly junk is. I know:

I'm not supposed to "get it."
I'm demographically challenged.

Unless "Ant Man" falls
into the conical trap
of Ant Lion and gets
pulled under the dirt,
I'm not interested.

My mother and I agreed
that puppets are stupid,
and I put "super-heroes"
in that category.

Sometimes she asked new
acquaintances, "Do you like puppets?"
It's a hell of an exploratory
question when you think about it.
It isn't a question.


hans ostrom 2015






The Purge


Yeah, they brought in a tactical team,
a euphemism for heavily armed thugs.
Then said tacti-thugs swept the whole
sector, clearing out anything
they deemed lyrical. They rounded up
short poems by the thousands, arrested
anyone who wrote anything accused
of being quiet. (All poems on the page
are silent until spoken to.)

They roughed up numerous solitary
scribblers caught jotting down
juicy phrases, pithy paradoxes,
and notes on introspective matter.
Rhymes were stripped and mocked.
You can imagine who took over
after the purge. Too many poets
have a weakness for fascism, it's true.


hans ostrom 2015



Admiration Isn't Enough


(Charleston Church Massacre, 2015)


The screen shows an interview with two Black women
who survived. One lost a son
in the massacre: "I watched him take his last
breath." The other had been ready to die; the killer
"let" her live so she could "tell the story."

The story isn't his. The story's about
an ethnic group that's suffered beyond
comprehension--and had to comprehend. That
the suffering doesn't stop is White Americans'
fault and a nation's mortal wound. Nothing
will be right until White people own up

all the way. All the way, without
deflecting, with explaining away.
I'm tired of admiring
Black people for their courage and dignity
because admiration's passive and useless.

There's such a thing as too much suffering,
by a person, by a people. There's such
a thing as moral failure--of a person,
of White Americans.


hans ostrom 2015




Monday, September 7, 2015

Old Notes

The old woman looked at the image in the
mirror and thought, "My hair is a corpse."
Lately she's regarded her memories
as notes about a forgotten novel.



hans ostrom 2015



Sunday, August 30, 2015

Happy Birthday to Carter Monroe

A post by Ms. Fouquet elsewhere on the inter-webnets alerted me that it's the birthday of North Carolina poet, publisher, and sage Carter Monroe.

Here is a reading of his poem, "the two hanks":







Friday, August 28, 2015

Attention, Please


The more people there are
(more all the time)
and the more media there are
(same),
the less attention there is to go
around. Celebrity
diverts rivers of it
like golf courses in a desert.

Whole groups, cities, nations, cultures
crave attention (more than ever),
partly because of the illusion
that they may receive it. An
epidemic of narcissism expands.

We manage ourselves as commodities,
with packaging, labeling, advertising.

It is the other attention-deficit
disorder, the more harmful one.
An insatiable mass-appetite. Add
Americanness to it, and
it becomes exponentially worse.


hans ostrom 2015



Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Söderfors, Sweden

Söderfors, Sweden


Brown mortar, black bricks, buildings
from industry’s youth.

Two girls walk along a narrow
sandy path over the dam. Violent brown-black
water rushes through
the spillway. A sign cautions.

A gull nests in a granite slab.
(Incubation is a branch of geology.)

Reach for the black bricks—
to know them. Their texture is glass.
They were cooked to the point
at which manufacturing gives way

to beautiful compounds. Söderfors
is a silent town. Its cast-iron clock
is ornate and wrong. Bright green,

nearly lime: that used to be the color
of a rusting Saab parked all by itself.




Friday, August 21, 2015

Singing the Marine's Hymn When I Was Nine

Grades 3,4, and 5 occupied
the same room, and the teacher combined
us to have us sing "The Marines Hymn." Later,
Andre Breton's "Surrealist Manifesto"
provided a context for the experience.

The teacher didn't explain why
the Marines had occupied the Halls
of Montezuma (were they working
for Cortez?) or where the shores
of Tripoli were. Lots of Italians

had settled in Gold Rush country,
so I guessed Italy. Hey, teachers
do things to survive the teaching
because every day they have to
establish a new beach-head.

The tune seemed terribly tedious,
and it knew so: the key-change
if often a tell. Hell, yes, we
wanted to be sent on a mission:
recess.


hans ostrom 2015



Sunday, August 16, 2015

The Boarding Process Is About to Begin

At this time, we would like to begin
pre-boarding, which may be be thought of
as paradoxical boarding because it is part
of the boarding process it precedes.

We would like to invite anyone
who is in deep despair to board
at this time, as well as any children
traveling with overbearing parents,
invertebrates flying alone, and good
people (there's usually at least one!).

If your carry-on item is larger
than King Henry VIII's coffin,
please let us know.

Now we incite those with no
particular status to revolt
against categories.

Thank you.

We now invite White people
who believe they are
inherently superior to lift
their arms and pretend to fly
around in front of the gate here.
Okay, that's enough.

Finally, we invite those
who are acutely or chronically
tardy to board the goddamned plane.

It is truly our pleasure to serve you:
how could that possibly be true?


hans ostrom 2015




About the Roll-Call Up Yonder

When the roll is called up younger,
they'll mispronounce my name, or
it won't be on the list, or I
I won't hear them, or I'll be 17
again and talking to a pretty
girl, or someone will tell me
I'm in the wrong hall, or I'll
be dressed inappropriately
and sweating, or any combination
of these and other abrasions

on what ought to be the smoothest
scene in all creation. Yea,
awkwardness shall follow me
all the days of my life
and into and elsewhere, where

some angel will break decorum
and mutter to another one,
"Would you look at that one?"


hans ostrom 2015




Friday, August 7, 2015

Toes


Yes, I agree: toes
are risibly absurd.

They are pudgy, failed claws.
We encase them like jewelry,
divas, or prisoners, and let them out
for fresh air occasionally.

Their curling's an atavistic
practice that migrated
from branched communities.

When people say, "Kick up
your heels," they seem
to mean nothing.

Heel/toes, heel toes:
onward the masses walk hard
on hard urban surfaces.
It's the economy, stupid.

Our dogs is tired.
Our gods are remote.
This is the greatest age
of toenail polish.


hans ostrom 2015



Fashion District, Los Angeles


Hope Street:
End of Road Work,
One Way.
No parking--
Tow Away Zone.



hans ostrom 2015




Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Frank Herbert, Gore Vidal, and Richard Brautigan Walk Into a Bar . . .


In Tacoma, at the apocryphal corner
of Brautigan and Herbert Streets,
you may hear worms singing plaintive blues.

Turn on, tune in, drop out:
what bullshit. Nothing's that
sequential in T-Town, and Dr. Leary
was Ownership, not Labor or
Management.

It's a long way from San Francisco,
especially by dune buggy on back roads,
through the mind-fields.

Call yourself a duchess, call yourself
a duke. Nobody really gives a shit
unless you buy a round of beers
and feed the pool table. Seven-ball
in the Montana pocket off
the Portrero Hill rail. You
have to call it first.

Gore Vidal was stationed near Tacoma,
but wrote over the episode
while serving his celebrity in Italy.

Shit can get complicated real fast
is the theme of every novel,
every life.


hans ostrom 2015



Monday, August 3, 2015

Lima Beans



Please don't tell the Moche,
please don't tell the Spanish Viceroy,
but I've been estranged from lima beans
for quite some time. I recoiled,
regretfully, from their taste
and texture. It's hardly worth

mentioning, of course. --Except
maybe as a segue to sanguine
acceptance of other's satisfaction
with lima beans. There is

accounting for taste. It just
never adds up, is all.


hans ostrom 2015




Friday, July 31, 2015

Haypress Creek Was Other

One reason you liked hiking up
around Haypress Creek was that
the woods were of full of naturally
selected life that went about
its business independent of you.
Sure, you and the woods &
the creatures there shared
oxygen and C oh two,
and bear or deer or snake
or squirrel might get in
your sight-line and you
in theirs. The pleasure

though came from disconnection,
guarded fascination. Curiosity.
The woods were other, light, and
deeply intricate. Some shitheads

built a dam on Haypress Creek
and added miles of pipe.
Hydraulic electricity. All
things were now connected.
The shitheads had seen
to that. You never hiked up there again.
Other had been disrupted.
Absurdly, you felt ashamed
and couldn't face the woods there.
A stupid Wordsworthian emotion,
useless.


hans ostrom 2015






We've Always Had Good Answers


We've always had good answers. We know
what's best to do. We've been at war
always so have forgotten many answers.
Permanent war permanently distracts.
Plus when we use religion only
as a V.I.P. badge
and a fulcrum to extert force,
we get godlike, and you know
how that goes. Buying, also

the buying, shopping, shopping.
Quite a thing-culture, they were
may be said of us in retrospect or
now. Good answers are just lying
around all over the place like
jewels no one thinks are valuable
anymore. We just have to forget
what we know and start picking them up.
That's all? Pretty much.

hans ostrom 2015


Friday, July 24, 2015

Our Legends


Tell me your favorite legend,
and I'll tell you who you aren't.
I, too, sit outside
my legend, staring at it,
the thing I'm not.

Why do we do this
to ourselves and each other--
this creation of Impossibles
to which we then aspire
like minnows who dream
of becoming eagles
and vice versa?


hans ostrom 2015




People from the Sky


So many people
fall out of the sky.
They congeal and
become moving crowds
in cities,
thick and sticky
populations.

Thank you, sky,
for all the people!

yells a forlorn
figure, homeless
and friendless
in the mass.


hans ostrom 2015





Apples of the Ear

The apple doesn't fall far
from the tree except in quantum summer
when Newton's head doesn't/does
exist and Atom & Eve

know what they don't know,
a good first step
into the wormhole of Paul
Gonsalvez's "Diminuendo/

Crescendo" solo at Newport,
1956, in that momentary era
wherein all the tightly knit
notes of Ellington's orchestra

became/become perfectly tart-sweet
apples in a God's-ear of time.


hans ostrom 2015



Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Where Did Everybody Go, Anyway?

This place got quiet all of a sudden.
People I guess are off taking photos
of their meals and posting them
on Boastface.com. Probably lots

are gathering to tweet
about comic-book heroes played
in movies by weird little
celebrities. I think

all of this is fine, just
fine. Or I don't think
it's fine. Mere opinions are
exalted on the human stage.


hans ostrom 2015


Saturday, July 11, 2015

The Richard Brautigan Beauty Pageant and Fishing Derby

At the Zero Annual Richard Brautigan Beauty Pageant
and Fishing Derby, held at a mezzanine level
of consciousness, some of the contestants
are wearing hip waders and nothing else.

Their fly-casts catch the ears of lascivious
men and pull them off. There is no pain.
They do grow back. What is it with (some)
men and women's breasts? The pageant's
judges, who include Baudelaire,
discuss this question at some length.
Baudelaire reads his "Giantess" poem.

The carpenter Jesus comes on stage
and sings Leadbelly's droll Titanic
song. Now "the girls," garbed efficiently
in paisley items, launch the big
production-number. They sing and they
step-dance down a terraced pyramid made
out of 1945 nickels (S.F. Mint).
The trout in the audience go wild.


hans ostrom 2015







Aspects of the Main Stream

In the pavilions of forbidden solitude,
citizens could not escape their screens.
And tiny hovering machines
recorded what little reflection people
could manage to generate,
for thoughtfulness was deemed
counter-productive to all aspects
of the status quo. There had been no need

to prohibit poetry, improvised musics,
philosophy, and playful disquisitions
in public squares, for all of these,
including public squares, had simply
fallen out of style, and style was all.

Self-regimentation and enervated irony
(pallid sarcasms) prevailed in those days.
The cinema and its derivatives featured
chiefly "super heroes" and sequels,
categories that rose like massive
computer-generated plinths
over the tomb of imagination.


hans ostrom 2015



Friday, July 3, 2015

Emergency Music Medicine


Inspired by desperation
and a certain nausea brought on
by spectacles of hate encased
in blistered, feverish stupidity,

they started injecting
Duke Ellington's chords
directly into people's brains.
It couldn't hurt, they figured.

They brought on board
booster-shots of Bill Monroe,
Aretha, Coltrane, Rubenstein's
Chopin, and vials of other juice.

Hi-dee-high-dee hoping these
inoculations and antidotes
might re-humanize folks,
the worried inculcators

waited, seeking early signs
of logic, empathy, and wit.
I? I await reports. A bottle
of bourbon, which I haven't

touched in centuries, sits
on the battered piano,
which I have touched, pawing
ballads and blues like a badger.


hans ostrom 2015



Secret Music


The antennae of the snail receive
music as slowly as glaciers form thoughts.
Note by note, the music seeps in from
a station under the ocean.

--Whereas bumble bees jam. They
syncopate the wing-buzz rhythms
and growl lyrics into stamens.
O, sexy women, O, befuddled men,

there's music out there
few have never heard.



hans ostrom 2015






Sunday, June 21, 2015

More Popular Than the Beatles


Is the Abyss a place or a route? Yes.
How's the signage there? Incidentally,
when you visit an abbey, remember to ask
to meet the Abbess, not the Abyss.

This word, abysmal, where did that
come from? From the Abyss Mall?
Over a million shops, all of them empty.
They say Jesus, he came back

from the Abyss. I guess he did.
More popular than the Beatles, for sure.



hans ostrom 2015




Wednesday, June 17, 2015

The Is-and-Seems Theater Presents


"Electrons will be depicted as clouds of probabilities."

--Rachel Eherenberg, Science News, 13 June 2015


Sometimes seems makes Is palatable. Other
times Is wrecks Seems and levels
dreams to rubble, a lot to be cleared.

Art and science are Seems, despite
their claims to Is. They're our
symbolic social recreation of

material Is, that mystery in
plain site which hurtles
like a meteorite. Sometimes

it seems as if we know
nothing. Even our knowing something
may lead to that conclusion.

There's a profusion of
possibilities, the immanence
of Is, the atmosphere of Be.



hans ostrom 2015




Friday, June 12, 2015

Domestication

Some animals convened and reached
a consensus: they must domesticate us.
Self-evidently mad and self-destructive
as well as hard on other species,
we bore watching. So several

kinds of wild cats, wolves, and birds
sacrificed their careers, edged close
to our encampments, caves, and migrating
groups. They showed us the rudiments
about what to feed them, how to be patient.

The closer they became to us, the more
appalled they were by our illogic,
our lying and our frenzy. Even in sleep,
we thrashed about. Plus animal-sacrifice,
so stupid. Descendants of the animals

that domesticated us still try
to educate us and mitigate
our recklessness. Because of
the stress involved, they nap
a lot and get sad.



hans ostrom 2015




Thursday, May 14, 2015

Nothing But Time

Moments don't arrive.
For they've always been there,
inside the universe.
The tiniest percentage of them
are invisible arenas
available to our lives,
which pass in. And out.
All other moments lie beyond us.
There is nothing but time.


hans ostrom 2015

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Honors and Awards

He's been elected to the Lizard Rock
Academy of Arts & Shit Like That.
He was awarded the Piss-Ant Prize
in Poetry from the Gout Foundation.

At Fistula University, he holds
the Flecknut Chair in Mossy Texts,
although he's never taught one
goddamned thing to anyone there.

He was elected to the Chamber
of Literary Commerce not long
after he developed a sore
on his scalp, about which

he wrote the epic poem,
Ick,in syllabics.
He will be buried, after
dying, in the Poet's Corner

of Len's Barbershop and Bait Shop
in Lugville, Nevada. I mean, this
sonofabitch is a prized poet,
lethally anthologized.


hans ostrom 2015




Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Roof


Mist has found its night-air.
From the buzz of the plane,
we know the plane flies
circularly in clouds. Have one!
A neighbor cries, followed by
I need new strings. We are
on the roof but no closer to the sky,
buzzing toward a circular high.







Phrasing Today

How shall we phrase this day?
It has its own rhetoric.
Our arguments are largely choral
and decorative. Vowels

of sunlight stream between
consonantal trees and bathe
guttural buildings. Sky is a blue
theme; air, a forum.



hans ostrom 2015

Monday, May 4, 2015

The Post and the Cinema

I grew up fond of the post,
its letters and envelopes,
typed script and cursive,
stamps and addresses.
Its pace of weeks and days,
years and months.
Its slow magic. Now
it labors, a harried
beast with no charm
and many enemies.
I'm used to its
alleged replacements,
but once I loved the post.

I used to fall into cinema
as if it were a liquid dream,
a pool of better reality.
Now I see through it to
the cynicism, the
racism and capital,
bad writing, bad acting,
no acting, no point.
Hollywood's a sewage-
processing plant by another
name. I like some films
all right. But I used
to love the cinema.

It's another thing
to watch, is all,
institutions altered,
dead, or dying,
drifting by like dirigibles.



hans ostrom 2015


"Early One Morning," by Edward Thomas

Friday, May 1, 2015

They Will

They will photograph themselves holding guns.
They will incorporate the national flag
into their wardrobe.
They will proclaim their faith aggressively.
They will act in contradiction to their faith.
They will not read history.
They will not read literature.
They will not consult data.
They will reject conclusions from science.
They will demand to be considered special
and may link themselves to God.

They will not understand.
They will not try to understand.
They will be tyrants in their families.
They will perceive no contradictions.
They will recoil from wit and irony.
They will mimic gestures of status.
They will threaten.
They will be particularly susceptible
to fascist appeals.
They will transmit ignorance gleefully.
They will not know how to ask good questions.
They will remain enraged by complexity
and change.
They will not change.


hans ostrom 2015





Hollywood's Not Doing it For Me



I was watching a digitalized video
of a film in which immensely wealthy
celebrities with slight builds
(made more slight by Hollywood's
emaciation-demands) were pretending
on a sound stage to be tough cowboys
or gangsters or spies or cops. It wasn't
working for me. Their acting

couldn't overcome the built-in
farce of the system that made
the product--the insincere,
serious, transparently cynical,
ghastly moving-picture factory.

I turned off the machine.

I imagined the two men
having to work a shift
building a house. That scene
worked for me. I imagined
them quitting after ten
minutes and hobbling
toward the limousine.

After that scene stopped
in my head, I went outside
and dug a hole to plant
a green-gauge plum tree in.
I was entertained.



hans ostrom 2015


Monday, April 27, 2015

The Great Photon River

I wonder about the number of electrons
in me. I know you wonder the same
about the number in you. I wonder about
their origin. And I wonder about photons:
fiat photons. Sometimes, ego

forgets to block out all transmissions
from the broader spectrum,
in which instants
you may glimpse,
I can too,

the scene that shows it's all,
including here and us, one river
of light flowing around
and through black-hole boulders
and dark-matter mountains.



hans ostrom 2015






Note to Hart Crane


"For unless poetry can absorb the machine...then poetry has failed of its full contemporary function."

--Hart Crane



As I started typing this wad of words, sir,
I received a note from "my" machine:
Your html cannot be accepted.

Afraid or not, I am
sure the machine has absorbed us.
Ever adaptable (I type this
as if I mean it), we write
from and about the technological
innards, but we be the absorbee.

Rather than building bridges,
the culture seems merely
to have outsmarted itself
in ways even a good advertising
man like yourself couldn't
have seen coming. It produces
catastrophe in a businesslike manner,
very professional.

Atlantis is a casino
and a resort, Plato
was a fascist, and the Brooklyn Bridge is
quaint, and . . . .

. . .And everything, is the problem.
Anyway, from inside, unlyrically,
some craft reports like this
about the lovely contours of the machine,
the words floating like plastic trash
on the surface of "our" seminal html. May
a brother buy a vowel? Machine says no.

hans ostrom 2015




Friday, April 24, 2015

Synesthesia


Oh, the brain is such
a busy beast, operating
on its own, only oh occasionally
letting will pretend it is a manager.

On its own, the beast
associates the Thursday word
with an aubergine purple
and velvet texture.

It links Saturday
to red, Sunday to hard
translucence, Monday to off-white
or beige, Tuesday

to blue and an upholstered feel,
Wednesday to tan and cinnamon,
a graininess. Friday: black and gray,
the vintage whimsy of

a checkerboard linoleum floor.
Brain, to what end, this
communication between strangers
in the internal jazz cafe?


hans ostrom 2015



Thursday, April 23, 2015

Crow Knows Chronos


How does a crow
know when to slow
down as it flies
toward ragged-tipped trees
near Pacific?
You tell me.

And tell me this, your Majesty:
How does the eye
know when to spy
crows as they slow-
ly approach that tree,
ragged-topped next to coast?

Will you science me
when you tell me
why brain, which
is eye, which is crow,
knows crow, ocean,
and differences between?
Why brain indeed knows,
why cerebral deeds seem sane
when nothing would make
less science

to the unaccustomed crow
than eye and ragged
tree-top, ocean and black
ragged crow-wing brain?
Oh, you tell me,
oh, talk to me

using available light
and good godawful language
which crow's caw & ocean's
elasticity can soon articulate.
You science me, fathom
depths and chart crow-flight,
you all, you You, you too, O crOw.






hans ostrom 2015


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Wednesday, April 22, 2015

What I Miss About Sweden


Jag saknar Sverige.
Have I
sentimentalized that long country?
To be sure. Still there's much
to miss specifically. How
Swedes listen and have known
silence to be a key component
of conversation. How
they're suspicious of people
who require attention and thus
of Americans. The ubiquitous

(or so it seems) aromas
of coffee and pastry and certain
spices. Small grocery stores
that sell small potatoes still
with dried mud on them. The

presence of the absence of war.
A multitude of drolleries.
Crunch of tires and boots
on snow. Bicycles through snow.
The practical national enthusiasm
for children as a protected class.

Group-thinking (but not group-
thought). The way the language
swings--no wonder that the Swedes
loved Duke Ellington. Certain shades

of yellow on large public buildings,
and of red on cottages. Order,
without mania. How light
is a Norse god. Pop music. Jazz,
blues. Cucumber sandwiches.
Herring, herring everywhere.
And the news, which is, as it
should be, presented with
suspicion and perplexity.

hans ostrom 2015


Pluto, Yes


I wonder what day it is
on Pluto. Maybe
the Plutonians have named
a blues song after the day
of the week (or corresponding
unit) that's notoriously grim,
even for a disrespected orb
barely on speaking therms
with the sun. And

everybody knows that the
Plutonian work-day is forever,
longest in the solar system,
plus no labor unions. Cold.

I say, Hey, Pluto, I'll check
with you again when it's about
noon your time, Okay, man?


hans ostrom 2015




Monday, April 20, 2015

Experimental Vulgarity

Experimental. Ex-
paramilitary. Osprey,
men, tall: say it fast.

...I meant all. Expired.
Ax-pyred. Rapier wit:
annoying as hell. Expert

in metal. What does the
experiment entail? Experimental,
imperimental. Ahem:

empirical is no miracle,
but still it can be lyrical.
Free radicals are costly;

you'll want them surveilled
and unveiled; ultimately
intimately impaled. Mostly I wanted

to question the planted
evidence by means of
experimentation, to

curate with large vulgarity
disinterested respectability,
which has always been my enemy.

Adieu! Whew! Boastily and
brashily, I wanted a clashingly
jellied up bit of jazz

so as to pazz the evening.

hans ostrom 2015





Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Gun in the Sky

There's a big gun in the sky
hanging over the nation.

If the nation runs,
the gun will shoot it.
If the nation doesn't run,
the gun will shoot it.

The nation hasn't been
in this situation before.

It has only heard about such
an awful thing--and scoffed at it.

Now the nation is scared. Shaking.
Pleading. Panicked.

There's a big gun in the sky
pointed down at the nation.

The gun doesn't see the nation
as human. It sees it
as an awful thing. The gun
doesn't have a conscience.

After the gun shoots the nation
and the nation starts to die,
the gun will make a joke.


hans ostrom 2015

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Mind the Mind

Mind moves from manzanita
to overpopulation to
the Dreyfus Case to
accident of birth to
the poetry of Wang Wei
to heartburn to itch to
American's death-cult of racism.

Parts of mind watch other parts.
They correspond. They feud.

Why mind, why this mind, why
this mind works this way,
why questions?

are questions mind has,
moves toward, around, with.

Oh, manzanita, whispers mind,
ah accident of birth, and ohhhhhhhh,
America


hans ostrom 2015



Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Chicken-Killing Algorithm

1. Hear a father say, "The chickens aren't producing."
2. Surmise.
3. Look not forward to killing chickens.
4. Enter the chicken house.
5. Take a hen out of the chicken house.
6. Repeat 5.
7. Watch a father with a hatchet decapitate a chicken.
8. Watch headless chickens stride boldly, spurting blood from open necks.
9. Recoil mentally.
10. Dip chicken carcasses in hot water.
11. Inhale overwhelming wet-feather smell.
12. Pick feathers out of carcasses.
13. Become discouraged and bored.
11. Look at trees and sky.
12. Hear a father's curse-filled exhortations.
13. Surmise.
14. Continue picking feathers from carcasses until all carcasses are bald.
15. Think in terms of escape.
16. Look forward to escape.
17. Escape.


hans ostrom 2015






Quiet Whiteness



(Walter Scott, South Carolina, and uncounted others)


If you've ever asked yourself
what we did to deserve these
depraved politicians of ours,
you may have considered
genocide of the indigenous
people, slavery, Northern investment
in slavery, Jim Crow, Northern
acceptance of Jim Crow, lynching,
child labor, eugenics,
imperial lust, monopolies,
Chinese expulsion, Japanese
internment, anti-Semitism,
McCarthyism, the blasting of
air, land, water, and people.
We've done everything to deserve
the depraved, you might have thought
in a moment of clarity, or
in a moment of despair (same
difference?)

White supremacy remains robust,
is the truth. Remains robust
because of quiet whiteness:
the indifference, the privileged
numbness, of whites who know
better but cast out the knowledge
because it asks too much.
The smug passivity
of whites who won't educate
themselves. The endless string
of lame excuses, casuistry,
and weaselly rationales.

Quite whiteness likes these
politicians. Otherwise,
they would be intolerable
in 2015. So much would be
intolerable, including
quiet whiteness itself.

If you've ever asked yourself
when the white choruses will
stand up and sing, stand up and
shout, get up and make damn sure
the depravity's demolished,
maybe in a moment of clear
despair the word
(printed in white against
a black background) "NEVER,"
came to mind.


hans ostrom 2015



Monday, April 6, 2015

The Old Cloud Con

A "magician" came to town.
He explained what information was--
different, he said, from our tools,
animals, and plants. He asked

where we dept our information.
The usual places, we said:
Boxes, pockets, minds.
Oh, he said, give it to me,

and for a fee, I'll keep it
in a cloud for you!
In a cloud? we asked.
Yes, in a cloud, he said,

but for a fee! We then
kept the "magician" under
guard for a while after
that exchange because

he was so obviously a
scoundrel. Soon we let
him go, unharmed.
We gave him information

about where to travel
from here and
options for
a new career.


hans ostrom 2015


Kettle of Ma & Pa

Mother, gather. Father,
proffer. Mother, other.
Father, farther. Mother,
smother. Father, wrather.


Mother, feather. Father,
weather. Mother, mystery.
Father, factory. Mother,
whisper woe, Mother

know oh no. Father,
falter slow, Father
go gone. Ma, Pa,
dead, dust, as they

must, as we too must
just so very soon. And
yes, yes, the moon here
from the first, round & round.


hans ostrom 2015


Wednesday, April 1, 2015

The Trinity in Your Hands

Believers, bow your heads.
Worship your phone. It is all things.
Its icons bind you
to the holy trinity
of Telecommunications, Infotainment,
and Consumption.

Accept the liturgy of apps,
the dogma of fake urgency.

Believers, tap your loving phone
with humble thumbs and fingers.
Stream and text. Forward and purchase.
Your phone will go with you
where you go, amen.


hans ostrom 2015




Pavlovian Symphony

In the Pavlovian Symphony in E minor,
cello, piano, tuba, clarinet, and howls
from the conductor evoke many dogs
barking.

Then the conductor takes the baton
in his teeth and runs with it
among audience members,
who pet him. Before

the third movement begins,
he is leashed by the first-chair
violinist and led back
to his marked spot.

Implicitly, the Pavlovian
Symphony urges listeners
to respond to their conditioning,
scratch themselves, chafe
against their finery,
and slobber joyously.

Bravo, brava, bravissimo!

hans ostrom 2015


Monday, March 30, 2015

Looking for Stephen Crane

"I want to know where
Stephen Crane is!" shouted
a man in the desert, which
was not obliged to reply.

"Get back in the car!" cried
a woman from a black,
courageous Buick
on a highway a few
paces away from the man.



hans ostrom 2015



Friday, March 27, 2015

"Thought Infrastructure"


They talk about the Thought Police.
But you need a Thought Fire Department,
too. Spray water on the rage. Use
a special foam for hateful thoughts.

Yeah, you need a Thought Court, too,
so one thought can sue another;
and, you know, some thoughts need
to spend some time locked up.

A Thought Sewage System to get rid
of bullshit thoughts. Thought Parks
and Recreation. And so on. You really
need to invest in your Thought Infrastructure.


hans ostrom 2015


Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Fyodor


Fyodor, I think we would have gotten
very drunk together, and that
wouldn't have done either of us
any good. Still searching, but
I haven't yet found any writer
more delighted than you were
to dig into the muck
of consciousness. Others may
dig boldly or conscientiously,
some timidly, but you--
you did it in your prose with glee.

When I read your novels,
I get depressed and thrilled.
I get weary and joyful.
For about 45 seconds,
I may even become Russian.

I visited a "Dostoyevsky House"
they've created on your behalf
in St. Petersburg. It wasn't
bad at all. I bought a postcard
based on a painting of you.
I never sent it to anyone. Jesus
Christ, what you would have
thought of tourists! Lord,
help me: what you would
have thought of my
calling you "Fyodor."

Tolstoy overhead everything
that was said. You
overheard everything
that went unsaid.

Your books are as modern
as Dickens' aren't. You're
a brawler in prose.
You're also dead. What a
goddamned shame. Or is it?
It's so hard to know.


hans ostrom 2015




Blues for Esther Wagner

[Esther Wagner (1928-1989) earned a B.A. and a Ph.D. from Bryn Mawr. She taught at several liberal arts colleges, including the University of Puget Sound. She was a well read, generous conversationalist, colleague, and critic. She co-authored a novel, The Gift of Rome (1961) with one of her husbands, John Wagner. T.S. Eliot was a friend of her father's family, and she became friends with Erle Stanley Gardner, among other writers.]


It's too sad, darling.
But never mind, never mind.
Darling, never mind.

Let's pour a glass of sherry
and some goldfish crackers
and have a nice long chat.

Yes, we knew Eliot--Chicago.
We children referred to him
as Uncle Tom, darling--funny,
now that I think about it.

I always tell young people,
if you're sitting on a tack,
get up. This applies
to bad marriages, of course.

I'd glad you like Jarrell,
darling.. . . One encounters
ennui at mid-career. It
happened to me. If felt I'd
seen it all, read it all.
And for me, his poetry
came along at just the right time.

I don't believe in guilt,
I mean the emotion. A waste of time.
I also don't make any judgments
about people's sex lives--
consenting adults, you know,
and anyway, sex makes everyone
a little mad at one time or another.

Well, yes, it's hard to see
one's friends fall off the perch,
one by one. It's too sad. But never mind.

Get me another glass of sherry,please,
darling, and a beer for yourself--
and of course, I don't allow
beer bottles in the living room,
so do get yourself a glass.

Yes, the death's head on the ceiling,
above my bed. It's morbid to some.
Memento mori, darling.
It focuses the mind.

When I'm dying, I should like
to watch Roman Holiday
one more time. Lovely movie.

It's getting dark. And the rain.
It's too sad. But never mind,
darling. Never mind.


hans ostrom 2015



Oh, Ezra

Oh, Ezra. --With your crackpot prejudices
and loony economics: straight out of Idaho, dude.
The hick in me recognized the hick in your poetry:
all your learning didn't cover him up.

I never warmed to the picture we got
of you. It was just a picture, an ideogram
of Ezra Pound. Your poetry never warmed
to me. It stayed cold like something
made in a lab. You were a technician
with big ideas. Thomas Edison meets
P.T. Barnum and Confucius. You sold us
your patented brand of Modernism
and almost cornered the market.

Oh, Ezra. --With your rock-drill.
The exercise was more like dynamite
stuffed in drilled holes and lit:

The Cantos are great heaps
of blown up strata. I think I'm supposed
to revere your achievement, but I've
been around hard-rock mining
and know its awful secrets.

You and Frost would make great
room-mates in the Dorm of Immortality.
No end to the pronouncements,
the goddamned sagacity.
The jokes would be few and
not that funny. Plus the grudges,
the paranoia. Between you
and Robert, oh Ezra, a word-in-
edgewise would be apocryphal.


hans ostrom 2015


Monday, March 23, 2015

Feeling Bad? Try Thinking About Sex

When I get to
feeling bad,
I think about sex,
and I get to feeling better.

I was writing complex,
diffuse poetry
because I thought
I ought to. Now I think,
Why would anybody
want to do such a thing?


In a follow-up move,
I think about sex
and pass quickly through
the awful, damp wooden
tunnel of ambition
to the other side.

I've never been
a terribly chaste
person in spirit.
I'm starting
to feel sad about that fact.

So I think I'll think
about sex and come up
with some kind
of action-plan.


hans ostrom 2015

"It's Not a Competition"

It's not a competition.
It is a blues rendition
of an anthem that was
manufactured long ago.

I am in no condition
to make a sound decision
about gestures I might
make to you before you go.

Now I
see life
is a
landscape
covered
with corners.

Now I
see death
is my
corpse surrounded
by mourners.

It's not fusion. It's not fission.
It's by my own volition
that I sit and watch
the rain turn into snow.


hans ostrom 2015


"Please Rate Your User Experience"

He was asked, by a machine, to rate
his user experience. He did not rate it.
He was asked by advertising, government,
and media (which formed a single entity)
to believe what he heard, saw, and read.
He did not comply. He did read
labels on jars. He turned away.

He liked green light in corridors
as well as green corridors well lit.

He rarely mourned the loss of a
narrative thread. He thought
there was a sense in which
plots should be broken.

Where was John? Where
is John? Is his name
really John, or is it Ian
or Juan? Where is anybody?
Is this the . . .? No,
it isn't. Thinking about it,

he thought his user experience
was inconsequential. The rating-system
did not accommodate such thinking.
Meanwhile, he was trying to break
himself from the habit of thinking,
"What is to be done?"


hans ostrom 2015


Friday, March 20, 2015

"Pick Up Your Meds"

You might have to fall in love
with the names these pharmaceutical
oligopolies give to medicine--
fantastic nouns with neon
syllables like zan, zac, zole,
perc, pram, lam, and zone. Even
the oligopolies have a
med-moniker: Big Pharma.

It's the synthetic language
of weary magic-acts from last
century plus the detached
lingo of advertising that is
always floating above our heads.

We learn the names quickly when
the stuff's prescribed to us
or when we buy it on the street.
We learn them not at all when
it's not or we don't.

We go between docs and pharmacists
as mere messengers. Our bodies
wait patiently like bovines
for the med-food to be added
to our cuds. Where

science, chemistry, capital,
ailment, and diagnosis meet,
chants from a hybrid incantation
get printed
on bottles that are never clear.


2015 hans ostrom


Friday, March 13, 2015

"Don't Need It"

I'm in a meadow,
moving my hands
as if to design
and build a cabin
there. It is fun.
Good exercise.

I stop and breathe
and leave the meadow
because I do not
have to live there
and the meadow
doesn't need a cabin.

To dogs a meadow
is a gift of data.
To dogs warm sunshine
is like a god.


hans ostrom 2015


"Plenty of Enough"

He preferred disenchanted gardens,
their real dishabile.
Accepted how, without wizardry,
one seed became a huge plant
with edible stuff hanging from it:
that was plenty of enough.

If a unicorn or a nymph
should wander in
among the productive mess,
he'd offer the nymph
a sugar-pea pod
and wait for the unicorn
to generate manure.
Fertilizer, of course.

He liked to listen to bumble-bees
and watch the writhing dance of worms.


hans ostrom 2015

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

"Welcome to I Don't Know: Population--More Than a Few"

After traveling for decades
and imagining he was learning,
he came to the town
of I Don't Know. The

people there were too
chastened and bemused
to be more than humble.
Like him, they had enough

energy to express one,
at most two,
viewpoints per day,
and the custom

had become to follow
expressed opinions with
"That's just a guess" or
"But who cares what I think?"

Joking, of a kind,
was popular but always
rooted in absurdity,
not in superiority.

To the mechanic, he said,
"My car broke down. Can you
fix it?" She replied, "Don't know."
He said, "That is good news."


hans ostrom 2015



"Deconstructive Dialogue"


. . . And, working its long con,
Deconstruction said, The text
always contains within it its
contradictions, its demise.


The text said, What the fuck
you talking about, Jack?


The Deacon of Decon, snorting,
retorted, I am talking about
the labyrinth of language,
in which meaning is always, always,
deferred.


Except when it isn't, said the text.


hans ostrom 2015



"Likenesses of Slave-Owners"

Thinking of, among other things, the capital
generated by slaves, I guess it's grossly
appropriate that likenesses of slave-owners
appear on U.S. money. I also guess
that for a majority, it's offensive
to make the connection and, making it,
to mention it. I see the eyes roll
and sense the bile rising. I hear
the naked emperor's entourage
rushing to defend the founding
wardrobe: Valley Forge
and the Declaration are hanging
in the closet, they assert.
Get over it, they advise.
Well, anyway, the printed faces
of slave-owners lie, tenderly
and legal, in my wallet, and
that is how it is.


hans ostrom 2015









Monday, March 9, 2015

"Our Tune Is Changing"


We're among the first
who may choose to see
ourselves as living
mosaics generated
by variations encoded
on spiral ladders.

The tiles are selected
from the meeting of all
those who met: ancestry,
which ultimately is common.
We're all commoners.

Somehow now what we know
of social construction
and what the sciences
of genetics give to us
are so much grander
than mythology, dogma,
and bigotry: all the old
hoo-ha Each of us

is a compendium of chords,
first notes of which
were played in a place
we call East Africa;
then riffed on in
the slow compositions
of migration. The
genome's home.


hans ostrom 2015



"Go to Keep Going"


Our daily, nightly migrations,
en masse metal on wheels or wings:
routine, ferocious--
such an expenditure.

If we ask ourselves
to rethink the regulated
frenzy of to-and-back
to work, we will tell
ourselves we have no choice
and mean that to be
a good reason, sensible.

Commuting, we change
ourselves together
and permanently.
No one really
recovers from it.
We go to keep going.


hans ostrom 2015




Friday, March 6, 2015

"Strawberry Thoughts"

Apple trees have strawberry thoughts.

Thunder is dissatisfied.

When he opened the closet, the clothes
got quiet all of a sudden. They had
been making jokes about him.

Seeing lightning made her think
of maps and arthritis.

Hope covers dread like a watery,
weak lotion.

Street surfaces are a genre of art.

Fog, in some instances . . .

When the water-line broke,
the fountain in the public square
went dry, and we were sad to see
how plain the fountain looked
when it wasn't wearing water.

"This poet was an undrafted free
agent coming out of college, Al."
"That's right, Bob, and look at her now."


hans ostrom 2015



Wednesday, March 4, 2015

"Fyris River"

The Fyris River
is a fine small river--
energetic and direct.
It runs through
Uppsala there
in Sweden, I want
to say, but should
instead say energetic
and direct humans
built Uppsala up
around the river,
which they named
Fyris. The stones
and bricks and
water and light and
birds and darkness
all seem familiar
with each other
there in Sweden,
Uppsala, as if
they have worked
things out pretty
well. I did not
however speak to
any fish. I tried
to do so once
when I paused on
a bridge over
the Fyris on
my way to the bookstore
during Book Month or
Reading Month or
whatever it was.
The fish were
indisposed, reading
perhaps.



2015 hans ostrom



"This Man Has a Good Job"

Bar codes, mumbling toads, and driving and
driving and trying to beat last quarter's
sales-numbers, trying to pound those numbers
into the ground of the territory: this man

sweats, and thinks, and drinks brown
sugar-water infused with caffeine and
feels the adrenaline rush of listening
to Rush's voice and feeling Rush is right
on everything, he agrees with me, I agree
with him, totally! In his car, this man
is truly alone, like Rush in his
broadcast-bunker. He doesn't care,

this man, because his way of thinking
is we're alone even when we're with
clients, family, and other kinds
of seemingly people. "I like
what I do for a living," he tells people.
"What I hate is paying taxes, of any
kind, and I want the Government
to take its finger out of my ass."

On the interstate highway, however,
his mind is taxed, and it tells him,
"Bullshit. Say to yourself the truth,
at least. You find something that
pays, you do it, you keep doing it,
you like being away from her and them,
and one day the pump goes,
and you go, she and they get
the insurance, and someone else
takes the territory." Meantime,

he switches the noise from Rush
to sports talk radio.



hans ostrom 2015



Monday, March 2, 2015

"Inventory"

The man deduced he was dead
and, uninspired, named the entity
he saw "angel." Entity asked him,
"Tell me how you spent all
that energy and time given to you
during your life, please."

The man began to answer,
then stopped and collapsed
into a wee pile of spiritual
wretchedness. Quite
the metaphysical mess.
Entity, or "angel,"
observed this for a while
and then spoke:

"Yes, it can be difficult,
this part. After you die,
you must be broken down further
before you go on to more
pleasant tasks."


hans ostrom 2015


Wednesday, February 25, 2015

"Palette"

A blue owl, red sunflowers, and yellow horses:
such a scene may lift the spirit,
whatever the spirit is, whatever color.

A green road, a purple copse, and a black
bell tower: in such a context,
the spirit may become somber--

as brown becomes serious in a field of gray.


hans ostrom 2015

note: one of Christina Rossetti's children's verses refers to a blue owl and red sunflowers.



Friday, February 20, 2015

"Lawn Walker"


Yeah, I'm a lawn walker. That's right.
I walk on lawns across this land. I see
a lawn, I walk on it. Hell, yes,
people yell at me. Hey, what do you think
you're doing?
I don't say nothing.
Sometimes they move
toward me. I walk away. Sometimes I
run. 'Specially if they have a gun.
Although I mutter to myself,
you're defending this weedy square
of grass with a gun? You crazy?

Some of the lawns have done gone
brown. Like Colorado, California.
Drought City, here we come.

Some of them smell like poison.
Oklahoma. Texas. Fracked up lawns.
("Nobody said we weren't going to
get our hair mussed a little bit.")
Petro-Patriots ain't afraid to
give their lawns for their country.

What do you call freedom? Mowing
a lawn? Putting down the weed-kill,
moss-kill, bug-kill? Listening
for the hiss of your automatic
sprinkler-system? Well, I call
freedom walking on lawns.

Sometimes there's dog-shit there.
And I get blamed. Goes with
the territory. I lit out
for the lawns, baby, and here
I am. Could be Boston. Could
be Maui. Could be Sweden
or Chile. I'm global,
a card-carrying member
of the International Lawn
Walkers of the World (IL-WOW).

I'm a man who walks on lawns.
Go ahead and judge me. Call the cops.
Call the guy at the gate in
your gated "community." Call
down the helicopters, the
Landscape SWAT Team. Send in
the squad of riding lawn-mowers.
I ain't afraid of no John Deere.
I walk on lawns. I got no fear.


hans ostrom 2015



Wednesday, February 18, 2015

"Somber Hombre"


A somber hombre, Arturo
liked to listen to jazz
and drink lemonade after
a shift of welding ships,
his head behind the mask
all day, heat coming off
of steel. He liked the way

that jazz opened his mind
to night an let the starlight
fall down or seem to like fiery
bits of metal left over
from when the sky got welded.

Arturo found the music flexible
even when it was heavy,
and jazz wasn't made to be
anything more than what
it was, so it was free to be
a lot. Sometimes Arturo

listened so late to the vinyl,
he fell asleep on the Navy cot
he'd gotten from who knows where.



hans ostrom 2015




Monday, February 16, 2015

"Who Will Teach Us?


"Who taught you to hate yourself"
asked Malcolm X, 5 May 1962, L.A.

I for one little white boy
was taught by U.S. news-culture
(noose-culture) to be afraid of Malcolm X.

Lord, I could not muster up the fear.
Instead the face and words and name
entranced me at age eight. There
was the force, precision, and logic
of prophecy. Often I spoke
the magic words Malcolm X
and Willie Mays to the cool
hall of my mind.

Sure, maybe call it an early encounter
with charisma. But oh it has outlasted
the Kennedy charm, which seemed
like an expensive mechanism.

An imprint that remains from Malcolm X
and those times
is of a fiercely focused, dedicated
life--all the stuff of slough discarded.
He was a virtuoso of humanity.

We haven't learned yet,
especially us whites, how to take in,
accept, and struggle with such love,
such proper, unsentimental love.

For such love cuts through
the vicious, viscous lies
on which the flabby thing, Whiteness,
leans.

Who taught us never, never
to tolerate such truth?
Who taught us to fear such fearlessness,
and to hide ourselves from such seeking?
Who will teach us otherwise?



hans ostrom 2015



"Memory Unit"

In the Memory Unit, we speak
euphemistically. We
watch the very old and almost
mindless sit or lie like reptiles
that are waiting for the warmth
to come back. These wait
for the memory-sun
to unset itself.

Our uncle is among them here.
What are we supposed to say
to the past, which is absent?
What are we supposed to do
with our rage and embarrassment
before this scandal, this
crucifixion of identity?

We keep our visits short,
is what we do. For a while,
in our conveyance later, we
are as quiet as the Memory Unit.
Then someone speaks. We understand.
We speak back. We're understood.

hans ostrom 2015




"Lieutenant"

Lieutenant, lieu
tenant, boss and not-
boss, muddle-management,
point of view, of order;

quasi-commander,
ranked demander,
charged like a battery,
in charge of a corner

in the structure:
what should I do?
asks the lieu;
but only later asks

how did I get me-self
into this broken fix
of too much and not enough
responsibility?




hans ostrom 2015

"Of Bronchitis"

When you cough, the bronchia
fire yellow or green mucous-bullets
into your mouth. It isn't disgusting.

It just is, like everything else.
When illness appears, you push the world
away. The world seems only

too glad to go, as it has no
particular attachment to you,
and illness is boring.

Your venue's now a bed with linens,
pillows, and blankets. You feel
lucky, weak, and sad.

On the walls hang strange pictures
no one else would want. This is good!
Coughing hurts. Sleep is irascible.

Affected by bronchitis, this
segment of time is your life now.
It is not without interesting

features,
including what comes up from
lungs to visit your tongue.


hans ostrom 2015


Thursday, February 12, 2015

"Place in the Space"

He needed something to take him away
From the place in the space called
His head. Not escape; no, a shift
Into a perspective that stuff didn’t
Stick to too much. Such as scenes
Of injustice (the same kinds
Of the people that were treated
As not-people are treated as not-
People today; if you, he thought,
Read, see, and listen, you will
Know this and so not deny it
I can't deny it, it sticks
),
Yes, stick to too much,
Does the stuff, such as
By-now distilled toxic memories
Of personal shame and failure, failure
And shame and stupidities
And permanent confusions
But also excessively incisive
Insights (such as this whole
Fucking operation is a scam
and I must pretend it isn't
).
Listlessness full of dread,
Dreadful despair result
From the sticking-to of stuff,
So now yes he need something to
Take him away from the place
In the space called who he is.


hans ostrom 2015











Wednesday, February 11, 2015

"Worry Wins"


I have worried about the sky,
which doesn't exist.
I've worried about rain,
which is none of my business.

I was trained to worry,
to give a shit,
as the American colloquialism goes.

Not that giving a shit
ever made me effective
at righting wrongs or lefting
righties or injecting decency
into the smug corpse called power.

Now I'm exhausted. Worry
has done won. I care in theory.
In practice I don't give a shit.
Thus I have energy to watch
the twitter-feed, and that's
about it.

It isn't relaxation. Nor
is it fatalism, for I don't
have the juice even to philosophize,
either. That's some sad shit.
Even despair is asking
too much from me. It takes
effort to give up hope.

I'm an old dog lying on a porch
in summer. I can smell
developing events, and my
neck-hairs might rise. But
I can't-won't get up
when that raccoon waddles
past the place, chirping.

Well, maybe tomorrow. Yeah,
maybe tomorrow I'll write a
letter to the editor. And send
it? Wow. Join a march? Lend my
body to a protest, scrape
together some solidarity?
Tell a racist to fuck off!
Today I can't seem to get off
my ass. The situation is
troubling. I'm worried.


hans ostrom 2015


"Beautiful in Spring"


We'll all be beautiful in Spring
in spite of how they've hated
and tried to make us hate.
Sunlight will turn green leaves
gold. It will round out our beauty,
too. The fantastic browns
of earth will enrich our context.

We'll talk superbly with one another,
sometimes without talking.
Yes, it's true: beauty's not
for the few. It's standard issue.
Let the dirty drifts and banks
of comparison melt away
to feed the flowers
we'll see and smell
no matter where we are in Spring,
when we're beautiful.


hans ostrom 2015

Saturday, February 7, 2015

"Fragment," by Jessie Redmon Fauset






"They Are Up"

Strong and bold,
confident and true,
sprouts of tulip
and daffodil
poke through the well-
drained soil. One

thinks of espionage,
a listening post
gathering intelligence
from weather and sending
it to handlers underground.

Some of the sprouts
look like a green cat's
ears. They hear the jazz
of warmth. Others seem
the shape of the tip
of the trowel used
by some hulking mammal
in clothes, planting
sadly in October,
preparing the floral
resurrection grave.

hans ostrom


Friday, February 6, 2015

"Hiram Speaks of the Alleged Ghost"


Yes, I can confirm there was a ghost in that house.
We knew so the first week. Pop called
Uncle Zipp and Aunt Peach over, they
located it, grabbed it, threw it
in a steel box, and released it into the woods
a hundred miles away. Mother said,

"I'm not cleaning up after a spirit."
Pop: ". . . the rude sonofabitch."
Sally, my sister, the budding scientist,
said, "There's no such thing as a ghost,"
but didn't object to the transport
of nothing to elsewhere.

If anyone had asked me, and they didn't,
I would have said, "What's wrong with a
ghost? Let's see how it goes."
I still like to hike in those woods.


hans ostrom 2015