Greenwood Encyclopedia of African American Literature

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Collecting Time

I keep weeks in closets,
months in a rented garage.

I've misplaced a crucial week
from June 1979.  I can't count
the number of other weeks
I've never gotten my hands on.

Somehow I ended up
with someone's else's
January 1826.  It may well
be my favorite piece.

I had a chance to bid
on a fortnight from 1902,
but three days were missing.

People ask me, they say
why do you collect different
units of time? I wish I had
a good answer. Some day

I'll do something with all
these weeks and months.
In the meantime,
I need to find more space.


hans ostrom 2016

Friday, August 26, 2016

Always One More

There's always one more, you know. One
more problem, pain, opportunity, pleasure.
Another nail, bolt, squirt of toothpaste, surprise.
And another acceptance required.

One more blackberry or tomato to pick,
one more spud in the dirt. Another task,
chore, duty. Oh, yes, one more good
idea, atavistic evil notion, phase

of healthy cultural growth. Another
star, pickle, song. One more
word, glance of understanding, heart break.
Until there isn't. But then there is.


hans ostrom 2016

Monday, August 22, 2016

Better and Best

Better to be lucky than good. Better
to be good than middling, middling
than bad. Better to be pragmatic than
pure, sensible than righteous. Better
to have good shoes than bad, bad shoes
than none. Better to be housed than
homeless. Better to consider people
without than people with and than
only you and your own if you have.
Better to do it than to write of it,
best to do both.


hans ostrom 2016

The Question and Answer Portion of the Evening

I could go for you in a really big way,
he said to her. It wasn't subtle, and
it was not hip. Thank you for sharing
your perspective, she said to him.
It wasn't rude, and it was droll.

Shall I leave you alone, then? he
said to her. It was polite. It was not
clever. Yes, you shall, but not right
now, unless of course you want to go.
It was permission. It was restrained.

What shall we do, then, what shall
we say? he said to her. Excellent
questions, she said to him.
He was confused.  She
was bemused.


hans ostrom 2016

Friday, August 19, 2016

A Little Molecular Traveling Music

A handful of molecules moved around
the universe this one time. Long story
shrunk, they became "me."  (In
photographs the quotation marks
are invisible.) Lots of them get

replaced in the usual organismic
way, plus haircuts, etc. Soon and
very soon, all molecules that account
for "me" will be released back to
the universe at large, and what

a large it is. They'll keep on
moving, as if they'd merely
paused at a roadside diner.
A little molecular traveling
music, if you please, maestro.



hans ostrom 2016

Are You Thinking What I'm Thinking?

Are you thinking what I'm
thinking? I hope not. It makes
more sense to divide the thinking
labor. I'll think about clean water
while you think about recordings
by Gil Scott Heron. You'll
think about the struggle against
racism in your community,
and I'll think about a feather.
You: rotten fruit. Me: nuclear
holocaust.  (These are just
examples, not directives.)
Of course, we're both free
(we hope) to attend think-the-
same-thoughts-party later,
although it seems those can
get a little cultish. Whatever
you do, don't think about
a red onion. Oops, oh no!


hans ostrom 2016

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

In a Lobby of a Cinema Complex

This complex isn't simple. Figures
strolling across a neon-glossy floor
toward theater-caves, bathrooms, or
sugar and salt: they and I
are already dead--like people
photographed by cinema in 1939.
And we've been replaced by others
who move about here just as we do,
we did. Maybe one of them

is morbid, or at least fatalistic,
and feels for a moment as if time
has already departed, leaving
behind only light on a screen
flickering imperceptibly
and kernels of corn exploded
into tiny thunderheads. Before
going into the movie, I think
this scene may be the better movie.


hans ostrom 2016