Greenwood Encyclopedia of African American Literature

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they become sullen and withdrawn like badgers; OR both.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 modes 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