Greenwood Encyclopedia of African American Literature

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