Greenwood Encyclopedia of African American Literature

Friday, February 5, 2016

The Shark Teeth Underground

I bought six shark teeth today.  Small ones.
Inexpensive. Also cheap, although not from
a shark's point of view. They came in a week
plastic box with a black foam mini-mattress.

They look a little like bobcat teeth.
Their color runs from taupe to blonde.

They remind me of when I bought
a chocolate-brown baby octopus
at Fisherman's Wharf, San Francisco,
when I was 8. These cheap,

eccentric creature keepsakes
(my mother's word) keep me going.
They symbolize a child's economy,
which dictates that all the stuff

in the world, like sticks, rocks, bones,
and bugs, is a vast, astonishing
pile of wealth. You can just pick
some of it up and have it! Holy shit!

You can even covet it and save it.
But most of it you just let go,
a re-investment in the infinite treasure.

The economies in which I've had
to participate in sell things the seem
necessary or desirable.  But almost
all these things harbor a tumor
of dullness. That's why advertising

must work so hard to distract
us from the dispirited quality
of goods and services.  As a
practical matter, the more I keep

current on child economics,
the more sanguine I am as I go
undercover into the adult,
capitalist polity. My

code-name today is Shark Teeth.
If you want to join this underground,
you're already a member, and remember:
the wealth we explore, the miraculous
forms that delight us--they're cool
and inexpensive, often totally free.


hans ostrom 2016
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