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