Greenwood Encyclopedia of African American Literature

Friday, September 30, 2016

Transformation: Boss

When I become a boss, I suffer
loss of identity.  Blood pressure up,
humility suppressed. When I delegate
and said delegatees don't follow through,
what do I do?  I do the work myself,
I will not fire, I will not plead. I
tempt myself to put up a sign that reads
"Dear Everyone: Do your fucking job.
Thanks! --The Boss." I hate
that they hate me as they must
when I'm just a boss. So I stage

a coup-de-mois, step down, get out,
and return to my back-bench, edge-
of-circle, agitating ways. My news
is old: anti-authoritarians ought not
to boss. Shame on them for making
me one, shame on me for grabbing
that seductive baton.


hans ostrom 2016

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Grendel's Agent

My client's one of the
earliest antagonists
to show up in Western
Lit., and you're offering
scraps? How dare you
low-ball a bankable,
A-List monster! Plus,
I can get you the Mother
and B-Wulf!


hans ostrom 2016





Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Transformation: Professor

When I'm a professor, I pass by colleagues
who have plotted my death a time or two.
I like to keep my feelings hard and polished.

Other people  follow me so they can ask me questions
aimed either at tripping me up (call it
the eternal dissertation-defense) or finding
out if I accept late work. I lose my keys.

Feeling around for them in a pocket
of a tweed coat, my hand touches
dead butterflies, paper clips, and
sawdust. I sit myself in the sun
like a house plant, for I just want
to know things, I am so very weary
of being responsible for knowing things.

But then. (O, Transition!) Then
I see students walking, talking
in the sun next to brick buildings
near green trees.  Regardless
of who they are and where they
come from, I see in their affect

one thing I know for sure: a
knowledge-quest is the very best
of all human adventures, and to be
young amidst that quest is to feel
(oh, yes, I remember) as if your
mind can grasp all things.


hans ostrom 2016

Engulfed

A shadow hands you a book
and walks away. You open
the book to a middle page,
where you read, "The good idea
of 'America' died from complications
related to the disease of White
Supremacy. You're living in the
funeral." You close the book,
turn, and see a million shadows
and more rushing toward you.


hans ostrom 2016

Friday, September 16, 2016

Beware the Troubled Aged

People worry about "troubled youth."  Okay, fine.
They should save their alarm for the troubled
aged.  Who travel in gangs demanding help
with digital technology. Who form squads

of know-it-alls wearing funny hats. Who
tell you when their nation was great
but never specify how.  And they protest--
clogging cities worldwide, carrying signs

like "Kill Time," "We Still Like Sex" (the horror),
and "What Do We Want?--We Can't Remember!"
It's real, it's dangerous, and it's coming
to your town. I say the aged should

love it or leave it, cut their remaining hair,
get a job (again), work within the system,
and turn down their goddamned music.
Let's make this country young again.


hans ostrom 2016

Transformation: Lawyer

When I visit a lawyer, stacks of paper
turn into thunderheads that rain ink
on my fear of litigation. All the clocks
read a quarter past dollar signs.

The attorney is a wizard, albeit
gowned in a tailored suit. She
owns a map to the labyrinth
I am about to enter. She hypnotizes

me with legal mantras, and I
wake up moored to the prisoner's dock.


hans ostrom 2016

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Transformation: Doctor

When I visit a physician, I become a martyr,
forced to wear a backless tunic. Large white
spiders crawl all over my body, touching,
probing, tapping. Then flies swarm
around my head, each with a number painted
on its back. Then the needles. At last
I'm sent down into a dungeon of potions
and sacrificed to constant worry.


hans ostrom 2016

Transformation: Dentist

When I visit a dentist, I become a coyote.
My yips turn into howls. The moon sits
just above me, shining into a cave called
Mouth, and here comes the huntress,
my nemesis, with her quills and knives.
Her masked face blocks the moonlight.



hans ostrom 2016

Chew Your Words

Risible syllables, oracular spectacles,
and vivid vineyard spectra: the mouth
is mouthing words like lozenges today.

The tongue's a dancing master that
undulates the floor, making phonemes
and morphemes stagger in chaography,

salubriously salivaed. Enjoy your words
today, my friends who are strangers,
inveterate re-arrangers.  Roll them

around, chew 'em up, wad them in a cheek,
let them drool out then suck them back.
Open your mouth and take a peek:

nothing there but air, ivory, red-pink
cave-walls, and that writhing slug
of a mischievous tongue:

connoisseur, conductor, meaning-
                                           making muscle.


hans ostrom 2016

Monday, September 12, 2016

Fantastic New App Lets People Talk to Each Other

There's this new app, fantastic,
that allows your phone to converse
with another person's phone.
Or several phones may chat
in a mingling group. Of course,
the phones have a lot to talk about--
a bad night's sleep-mode, soreness
from data-storage, the stress
of being shifted to another plan.

Anyway, while the phones talk,
you and another person or you
and several people may do whatever
you want together, including talk.  It'll be
great because your phones won't
be there. So for instance you
can focus your eyes on the other
person, and your fingers
and thumbs won't have to dance
frenetically like a weaving spider's legs.
I'm telling you it's an amazing app.


hans ostrom 2016

Friday, September 9, 2016

The Scourge of Poem-Abandonment



Last night, the City’s Literature Squad picked up
hundreds of poems that had been abandoned on the streets.
The poems are being held in a detention center
pending a hearing about necessary revisions
and poem ownership.  When they are identified,

creators who cruelly dumped their poems
face controversial new fines imposed by the City.
Speaking on condition of anonymity (as well as
obscurity), one creator said, “What am supposed
to do–let some loser poem of mine hang
around the place forever?”

hans ostrom 2016

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Vampire Blues

Don't want to be a vampire anymore.
Don't want to be a vampire no more.
I'm sick to death of vampirin'--
That's for sure. 

My teeth are dull,
My skin is pale.
I sleep all day
Like I'm in jail.

The coffin stinks,
And blood tastes bad.
The vampire films
Just make me sad.

Don't want to be a vampire anymore.
Don't want to be a vampire no more.
I'd like to be just human--
That's for sure. 

I wear black capes
And fear sunlight.
I want to surf
And dress in white.

When you're a beast,
It's hard to date.
Yes, I can change.
It's not too late.

Don't want to be no vampire anymore.
No, don't want to vampire anymore.
I want to have some fun
And lose the gore. 


copyright 2016 hans ostrom 




Concerning Fools

It's hard work being a fool. Ask
Shakespeare.  Oops, he's dead.
It's a calling, being a fool.
At the wrong times, you

have to be sincere, insincere,
right, wrong, inept, graceful,
knowing, naive, too young,
too old , , , Just too, okay?

You have to be willing
to spend a lifetime mismatched
to places, events, people,
clothes, customs, and situations.

That said, the world depends
upon fools: progress, false pride,
comedy, serendipity, art, and science
all rely on fools.  Oh,

what bullshit.  What a dumbass
thing to say. What kind of
fool do I take you for?  See
what I mean? Too too.


hans ostrom 2016

Friday, September 2, 2016

The Risings

Daniel's rising
up above the street.
The hot, crowded street,
hard and lethal.
Daniel's rising.

Rosario's rising
up above the huts
made of iron sheets,
cardboard, wood.
Rosario's rising.

Is it spirit?
Is it matter?
Is it a horrible,
factual hell?

Is it love,
is it greed,
is it power?
Who can tell?

Tula's rising,
up above the traps
they've set for her,
these men, these men.
Lord, Tula's rising.

It is love,
it is greed,
it is power,
though each
in a different
proportion
unfortunately,
not enough,
too much.

As you rise,
think of the risen,
think of the rose.
Think of freedom,
all dues, all
invoices paid.


hans ostrom 2016

Honeybees and Glass

Poems are composed on glass
that only seems to be translucent
beyond which airborne honeybees
meander in a No-Time without
language. Some poems pretend
to see the honeybees.



hans ostrom 2016