Greenwood Encyclopedia of African American Literature

Monday, February 22, 2016

However

"However."  Strange word. Gets away
with looking ordinary. How. Ever.

One part has to do with in what manner;
the other part, with time. However
makes as much sense as Wellsoon.
"Wellsoon, we did find the broth too salty."

However, "however" is as reliable
as a steel pry-bar and never wears out.
It leverages a turn
of direction in writing, speech, and thought.
Whatever it means, it functions
and does so more slowly than but.

In the U.S., however has enjoyed
a long friendship with the semicolon;
however, that probably doesn't
interest you.


hans ostrom 2016

Clusterville

I'm living out in Clusterville. Out here
we cluster up the huts and houses, apartmental
lego-heaps, and all the rest. The clustering
seems fine. I have a job at Clusterworks.

The Clusterwork motto is
"Trust Your Clustering to Us!"
We've been trained never to omit
the exclamation point.

Believe it or not, my wife Clemithia
is a direct descendant of one
of Clusterville's founders--
Alchemia von Kluster,

who was German by birth,
Belgian by culture. A grim,
exacting gourmand, so they
say. Aggressive pacifist.

Clemithia takes after her.
I would call my spouse
an imposing figure.
You would, too.

Again by marriage I'm related to
Colonel Jean von Kluster,
who's first and last stand
occurred just outside Clusterville:
he sank his savings into
a failed jousting tournament.

Look,I'm no deep thinker, no
existentialist, anarchist,
or pub philosopher. I work in
Clusterville because that's what I do.
I like self-evident just fine.

Other people call the shots
and legions more (the sad cases)
believe they have control.

There are clusters of people,
places, and things in Clusterville.
That is all you really need to know,
amen. Come to Clusterville.
Call it home. Stay.


hans ostrom 2016

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Having a Word with It

I'm never quite sure of who you are,
depression. I ought to hate you. I don't.

It's like you're some kind of gray-garbed
circuit judge. You ride into town, glower
down at me, then summon me to a cold

brown room where we sit silently.
You like it fine. I start to stare

into a pit I've hallucinated.
Eventually you leave. Or seem to.
When they finally sort out all
the brain science, your current name,

depression, will seem as quaint
as a Model T. Anyway, . . .


hans ostrom 2016

Friday, February 5, 2016

Black's Beach

(the clothing-optional beach near San Diego)

The heavy sand is as black as the stuff
that abides with gold in the Sierra.

Black-suited surfers march
along the beach in martial service
to the obsession. A nude

woman enacts yoga poses,
and I wonder why they never
offered that kind of thing
in high school physical education.
A solid replacement for
the badminton unit.

I sit naked on a purple towel
laid out on a washed-up wooden pallet.
There are other old washed-up
hippies (not the most accurate word,
but it will do) who dot the beach
in stupendous sunshine and fresh air.
Erosion-scarred brown bluffs rise above us.

I suppose we're absently wondering
where all the parties went to.
Answer: nowhere.  They just go on
without us. Somewhere we got

separated from our pods and
ended up on this beach.

It's not a big gulp of freedom.
Only a sip or two. Now a brown
young woman wades out into surf,
presents her body to the ocean,
dips her hands into the water
as if it were cool liquid silver.

She brings her hands to her face.
She runs her fingers through her hair.
I lie back like an old sea lion
and close my eyes.


hans ostrom 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

Thursday, February 4, 2016

To Eddie Some Weeks After the Winter Solstice

Oceans are the ultimate artists, Edward,
more variously capable and constantly
original than earthquakes, rivers, ice,
and erosion. Of course, human art,

in contrast to all of these, is not
really in the conversation. Human art
is always a bit of a knock-off.
Sculpture, painting, surrealism,
realism, epic tales, Dada, absurdism,
comedy, tragedy, scrambled genres,
modes, and impulses, and forms
we cannot even grasp abound

in oceans, by oceans. The oceanic
opus is constantly changing,
ever-expanding, and utterly
unconcerned about audience,
remuneration, and critical success.

Sad Plato, when he was thought-seeking
for ideal forms, should have recalled
the ideal generator of forms:
the sea! The Greek seas alone
would have cheerfully overwhelmed
Plato's wee dialogues and allegories
and turned them into fantastic
shapes to nourish starved imaginations.

What do you think about that, Eddie
of La Jolla? I know how you like your
Plato and his greatest invention Socrates,
who, like a professional wrestling
star, always won his contests.

As you warm up your pipes to sing
in response to me, Eddie, let me stand you
to a salty tequila cocktail, an
ocean unto itself, some say.

hans ostrom 2016

Early Days Yet

Come all you
myopic visionaries,
procrastinating inventors,
and clumsy magicians!

Join us in the project
we like to call
"Ambition and Other
Toxic Ideas."

We're not sure
what we want
out of the endeavor,
or where it will

occur. Or when.
Or even what
the endeavor may
entail. But

we're warming up
to the notion,
and we've given
serious thought

to a mission-statement.
No doubt you're
as excited as we are
about all this.


hans ostrom 2016