Monday, June 26, 2017

Harrier Mind

Your mind's pressing in again,
isn't it?  Harrier mind. It raps
on doors and windows, jiggles
locks, leaves ugly messages.

It's a double agent, a drill
sergeant, a bully, a beast.
Hunker down. Think of this
annoyance as mental theater.

Fall asleep before intermission,
muttering, "Mind, you exhaust me."

hans ostrom 2017

Big Shift Necessary

Oh, Switzerland, oh
shoes. Oh piety and booze.
Oh capitalists and nest-
robbers, mud-daubers
and multi-chambered tombs.

Oh wombs and the women
who carry them and carry
history, mystery, misery,
work, and care.  Where
is the wisteria? Where
are the boundaries drawn
by people who shouldn't?

Oh people, grow up.  It's
time. Stop worshiping
stupidity and sanctifying
greed. Lose the White
Supremacy and its evil,
desiccated heart. Discharge
sinister ministers. Own up.

'Fess up. Follow the money,
but don't let it be Lord. We
are one species, so work it
out from there.  Oh, hair.

hans ostrom 2017

Found Towns Lost

In daylight tiny
rural towns pretend
not to feel foolish
and depleted. There's
activity. An enthusiastic
conversation or two.
Errands and repairs.

At night streets
(such as they are)
become empty corridors
because people give
up, go inside, and
refuse to be towns-
people, too ridiculous.

Some shops weep,
others moan. If electricity
goes there at all, it
races through power
lines hoping not to be
used there. Before

dawn, animals file
through in a loose
parade.  Raccoons,
stray dogs, feral
cats, owls, and sometimes
a coyote. The stoic church
bell sweats rust, and
all the glory's in ornate
tombstones on a hill.

hans ostrom 2017

Friday, June 9, 2017

You Know?

We know we know
enough to know
we'll never know
enough to say
for sure we're sure
we know enough.

hans ostrom 2017

Leonardo Showed Her Smile

Please consider starting
with this premise:
Ms. Mona Lisa's smile
is not mysterious.

Now you may release
the heap of stifling baggage,
and if you like,
enjoy the image as it is.

(after reading Leonardo Da Vinci, by Sherwin Nuland [2005].

hans ostrom 2017

William Tell Ravine

(a tributary of the North Yuba River, Sierra County, California)

Before he'd heard anything about Switzerland, Schiller,
Rossini & stuff, he'd looked across the river from the house
at the long white beard of William Tell Falls. The sheer-drop
ravine seemed perpendicular.  No home for trout.  Im-

pulsively, as usual, he decided to hike up there when he was
17. He headed out, crossed the river, climbed straight up,
more laddering than walking. Ravine was path as rock
and manzanita brush walled the sides. He made it

as far as the flat pool the falls slapped in a-rhythmic
pulses. Sounds of that constant collision careened
around the stone box. There was no climbing further.
In soaked jeans and wet boots, legs loaded up

with lactic acid, he slithered down like an arthritic
snake, satisfied to have spied on a geologic scene,
to have introduced himself to William Tell Ravine,
and to have seen water and rock in their own time.

hans ostrom 2017

Monday, June 5, 2017

American White Supremacy: the Constant Plague

It leads to the continuing slaughter and unnecessary imprisonment of African Americans.  It leads to impoverished and working-class Euro-Americans to vote catastrophically against their own personal and economic interests.  It leads Euro-American women to vote for an admitted sexual assaulter for President. It leads to enthusiastic, widespread display of a flag that represents slavery, rape, murder, and terror: the Confederate flag. It leads to an irrational foreign policy.  It gets conflated with patriotism and Americanism. 
It leads “pro-life” "Christians" to support a murderous justice system and a savage attitude toward healthcare, both of which kill people, just as it once led them to own slaves and lynch human beings.  It leads to de facto Jim Crow educational policies.  Even in relatively improved situations—such as the status of African Americans and Latino Americans in higher education—it leads to continuing dehumanization: racist graffiti on campuses, racist security “services,” racist treatment of professors and students, etc.
It is White Supremacy, an idea rooted in the fake science of 17th and 18th centuries, completely fictional constructions of multiple human species when in fact there is only one.  And obviously this idea helped to make slavery and genocidal colonialism, among other things, morally acceptable to alleged Christian nations, including ours.
White Supremacy never goes away.  It only changes shape, at most.  Slavery has ended, but widespread immiseration of minority populations remains, as does a proliferation of hate groups and lynching talk from elected representatives:  while still a U.S. Senator, Jim DeMint said of newly elected President Obama, “we will break him”; recently an elected official in the South said those responsible for removing monuments to confederate figures should be lynched.   The mindset leading to such rhetoric determines the character of the GOP, which is a White Supremacist Party.  As noted, de facto Jim Crow practices remain in the justice system, the political systems (voting rights eroded), the educational system, and the healthcare system.
Shortly before she retired from the liberal arts college at which I teach, a highly respected, nationally decorated colleague said to me, after I had mentioned the miserable jog the college did at recruiting and retaining Black students, “Why don’t they [African American students] just go to historically Black colleges [as opposed to “annoying” “us”,” I guess was the rest of the point.  In the GOP mind, she probably counts as a typical “liberal” professor.  Liberal and White Supremacist, unapologetically so.  Multiply her worldview by hundreds of thousands, and you’ll get some sense of how White Supremacy vitiates allegedly enlightened institutions. Imagine how that worldview inspires innumerable micro- and macro-aggressions, every day. 
White Supremacy affects the Left, with hard-line quasi-socialists, including Bernie Sanders, downplaying (at best) the presence and effects of racism.  It affects liberals, who may say the right things but are almost never as aggressive as they need to be to wipe out White Supremacy.  It affects seemingly smart men like Justice Roberts, who asked, when the continuation of the Voting Rights Act was before the court, just how long such an Act (and other measures) was supposed to be allowed to go on.  In other words, when would “they” (African Americans) be satisfied?  Embedded in the rhetoric is the attitude of a White Supremacist doing somebody a favor and growing oh so weary of it.  The answer to the “how long” question is “as long as it takes,” of course.  And of course his Court struck down the Act, or at least its most potent parts, and doing so led directly to widespread voter suppression in the South and Midwest, where White “Christian” governors and legislatures reign.
It affects identity, not just in the narrow sense of “identity politics,” but in the sense that millions of Euro-Americans simply cannot construct an identity that doesn’t depend significantly on the belief that in some deep biological sense, they are superior to African Americans. 
I just had lunch with a remarkably smart, well educated, successful former student who is African American.  She said that after Trump was elected, “it didn’t take long” for a White man driving a truck with a Confederate flag decal to yell the N-word and other violent expressions at her—no, not in the South, but in Westlake Village, Los Angeles.  Subsequently she visited Kansas City, Missouri, where she “didn’t feel safe” because of how White folks were behaving in public.  Multiply her experiences by millions and imagine the psychological impact on African Americans.  Imagine the stress this impact creates.
White Supremacy is certainly tied up in Trump’s pulling out of the Paris accord on global warming because gleeful ignorance, doing thing because you can, showing contempt for scientists in particular and higher education and research in general, and throwing your imagined White Man weight around are linked to this problem of identity.
It affects the media, not just White Supremacist Fox News but also more mainstream outlets, who rarely mention the profound White Supremacist appeal of Donald Trump, Mitch McConnell, and the rest of the GOP and who rarely challenge the Democrats on their feckless or non-existent responses to racist policies. 
It certainly affects academia, informing notions of the liberal arts, hurting students and professors, and leading other professors into very sad, racist territory, putting the lie to all their high-minded posturing.
Decades ago, the genial, urbane legal scholar Derrick Bell told me that he was telling friends that vicious racism [White Supremacy] in the U.S. would never go away.  And he added that a feeling of relief, at least briefly, came over him when he recognized and expressed that fact.
As a political and social entity, Euro-Americans have always had the power to knock the crap out of White Supremacy.  Instead, they take half-measures—at best.  Otherwise, they are by turns uselessly guilty, stupidly liberal, viciously “conservative” [let’s get real: the GOP is the same as the Dixiecrat Party], unctuously sympathetic, and enthusiastically harmful. They say shit like “I never owned slaves,” which is supposed to lead to the logical conclusion that “so I don’t have to do anything about White Supremacy [except enjoy it.”  “All lives matter,” “Obama got elected—what more do you want?,” “make American great again,” “Obama isn’t American,” and yadda yadda yadda. They do things like defending  murderous policing and voting for Donald Trump, already in the category of worst presidents ever--although he doesn’t own slaves, as Jefferson and Washington (among others) did. 
Euro-Americans simply won’t get the job of eradicating White Supremacy, its legacies, and its consequences, done.  Much of the time, they perpetuate it, on purpose or through indifference and willful ignorance.  White Supremacy should be, but never will be, part of our daily political dialogue, given the horrors for which it has been responsible.  It is at the amoral core of the U.S.  It is the most obvious matter of urgency and the most ignored.  Sure, there are multiple factors that led to the election of a gleefully White Supremacist, “birther” President, who is catastrophically unfit for that position.  But if there were no White Supremacy or if there were only an enfeebled remnant of it, there would be no President Trump.   
The disease of American White Supremacy thrives like a plague.  It makes everybody sick, one way or another.  I have no clue what to do about it, even though I write against it and do very tiny things in my very tiny sphere to oppose it.   I wish something would wake up Euro-Americans, en masse.   Wishing is not a strategy. 

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Cookbook Unrest

I hear the cookbooks in the kitchen--
garrulous relics from pre-digital times.

They flop around on the floor. They
gossip about how and what I cook.

"Seriously," one of them says, "if he's
going to improvise all the time,

why consult us, why insult us?"
God damn their greasy pages.

The chefs who authored them: bah!
No one should be famous for cooking.

A cat has heard the books now.
He becomes a lynx and bounds

off into the kitchen.  It's quiet
in their all of a sudden.  That's right:

close yourselves, you recipe barns.
Digest your dissatisfaction.

hans ostrom 2017

Fowl Dreams

If I were a bird,
I'd ride on air and often
cock my head for different
angles. At night I'd close
my eyes from the bottom,
snooze on a roost,
and rest my beak.

Anything with a brain
dreams. Oh, imagine--
you can try: what
kind of dreams do
birds dream, and why?

Maybe they dream
of staying still and having
food come to them.
Maybe they dream
of the time when they
were dinosaurs.

hans ostrom 2017


I'll tell you what it's like to be a ghost:
No one sees you.  If you talk, people
don't hear. They will not see you wave.
The apparitional circumstance
is worse than loneliness. It is

to experience nothing.  It is to be
the consciousness of No. Being a ghost
is like wandering an Earth covered
with desert.  It is the desolation
of an infinite bleached sky.

hans ostrom 2017

Thursday, May 11, 2017

A Blues Collage

brown earth, muddy river
slashing sun, hard hands
long train, long train, long train

hard laughter, heavy fatigue
broken tools, bad food
long train, long train, long train

sweet tea, hot coffee
cold beer, good jukebox
cool rain, cool rain, cool rain

hans ostrom 2017

Wednesday, April 26, 2017


Mother, gather. Father,
proffer. Mother, other.
Father, farther. Mother,
smoother. Father, rather.

Mother, feather. Father,
weather. Mother, mystery.
Father, factory. Mother,

whisper woe, oh
no. Father falter slow.
Father go, gone.
Ma, Pa, dead,

dust, as they
must, as we
must, just so
very soon. And

the moon here
from the first,
once of Earth,
round and round.

hans ostrom

Lunar Eclipse Seen from the Central Valley

(California: April 1979)

 We sipped tequila from a bottle,
saw a shadow push into the moon,
which took on a planet’s gravitas,
losing its varicose craters, its

coin’s gloss.  Then its yellow
turned brown and red enough
to make a farmer look at it
as arable space. We enjoyed

the eclipse’s math and chance,
tried to focus binoculars
using a rooftop TV antenna
as approximative point.

We tried to shape our minds
around such fear and magic
as hunters/gatherers
may have felt. We failed.

We joked, and after midnight,
we opened doors of our several
abodes in a college-town stucco
hive.  We set clocks,

listened to household engines,
to music from vinyl undulating on a
turn-table like glassy harbor
water. Our dreams orbited desire.

Hans Ostrom 1979/2017

Friday, April 21, 2017

The Collector

The Collector

If you’re his wife, you’ve quit
asking why it all piles up out there
in the yard for everyone to see
from the highway.  Hubcaps from ghostly coupes.
Beer signs in neon cursive.  Coke machines,
cars, cars, cars.  You keep the house
and the backyard according to your principles.
You hate the mechanism in men
that drives them to love machinery.

If you’re his dog, you
urinate on tires encircling weeds.
You sniff varieties of rust,
chase squirrels until they disappear,
until you ram your hot wet nose
into angle iron; it all
makes the yard difficult.

Now, supposing you’re the younger son,
you don’t hate him yet.
Your friends think he’s a wealthy man,
a pirate maybe; they beg
their parents to let them come over,
Crawl through doorless cars, turn
cranks, patent imaginary uses

for useless contraptions.  You know
what it’s all for.  It’s there
to look at, to touch; it’s part
of a big landscape that whirls by
every day outside of School.

You’re the collector.  You can’t
help yourself. You’ll fix one thing
and trade it away for three things
you can’t fix.  The dog pisses on it all,
knocks over cans going after squirrels,
laps up rust-water.  You can’t
keep The neighbor-kids away. 

The younger boy, he follows you around
all day asking What’s this for?  What’s
this for?  You can’t understand why
your wife can’t understand why iron
and motors and axles are necessary,                                       
why strewn is the best way to keep
it all in order.

You stare right back at people
who drive by and scowl at your yard.
You know they’re driving junk.
Their houses are filled with junk that works.
You’ll get hold of it soon enough.

Hans Ostrom, from The Coast Starlight: Collected Poems 1976-2006

Balzac's Ghost and the Crucial Detail

She brought the wrong clothes to Paris,
which wasn’t as warm as imagination.
She borrowed a sweater and a coat
from me; also shoes, and the heavy socks
that made them fit.  My sweater, especially,
seemed to enjoy having her wear it
in cafes, brasseries, and markets. I

explained all this to Balzac’s ghost
at the writer’s home on Rue Raynouard.
Even though I wasn’t speaking French,
Balzac understood immediately. I went
on to observe that almost everyone
almost everywhere works hard and life
slips by so quickly and then all of a sudden

you’re a ghost listening to a tourist.
Yes, yes, said Balzac’s ghost, but
tell me, what color is the sweater she
borrowed from you? Green, I said.
That, he said, is today’s crucial detail.

Hans Ostrom

from The Coast Starlight: Collected Poems 1976-2006

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Puget Sound, Winter

Attend the winter light along the Sound.
Recall the rivers and the runs of fish?
The Earth agrees to fail; the year’s come down.

Most days the sun, per se, cannot be found
Except in willow leaves, low clouds, and mist
Attending Winter light along the Sound.

Maybe the salmon will again astound
Us with erotic, suicidal quests
Though Earth agrees to fail and years come down.

The young that work drink hard in this hard town.
Nation slaughters nation, no peace can last,
And Earth agrees to fail as years come down.

Shall we allow all fish to run aground
And Earth to die several unnatural deaths?
Attend the Winter light along the Sound.
The Earth agrees to fail. The year’s come down.

--Hans Ostrom/2015

White Curse

"As for now, it must be said that the elevation of the belief in being white
was not achieved through wine tastings and ice-cream socials but rather through
the pillaging of life, liberty, labor, and land." --Ta-Nehisi Coates, "Between the World
and Me," The Atlantic, July 4, 2015

Of course a given white person
can be right in the head
about America's white-supremacist
essence, which is fed by rivers from Hell.

Collectively though we white folks
always have an alibi, an out,
a turning away or an overlooking.
And until we lose all the excuses

and make things right for
good, America will stay
hexed by whiteness. And what looks
more like the spawn of a

curse than one of our worst--
this depraved President of the U.S.?

hans ostrom 2017

Friday, April 14, 2017

Detective in Uppsala

Somebody hired me to find out
what happens to light in Sweden.
Uppsala, specifically.  Hey, my
far-far was Swedish, I wanted to say
as I started the job. There was no
fooling the Swedes.  Every move I
made was American.  Even when I
was quiet, I was loud; and on time,
late. What I found out.

was light fills snow in Uppsala along about
January.  It will have you dreaming
in Bergman scenes.  In summer, it
leaves town for the lakes. It takes
the place of paint: some buildings
are an uncanny yellow, others eye-blue,
others as pale as the belly of a fish
in the Fyris River. I saw light

playing on birch bark, in gold hair,
black hair, brown hair. I have
a recording of light congratulating
raindrops.  The light in this
one apartment almost had me
sobbing, it was so beautiful.
(Private Eyes aren't supposed to cry.)
I praised light in crystal. I
tasted it in pastry.  That's
what I found out. That's my report.

* far far = grandfather
hans ostrom 2017

University Beneath a Flight Plan

One of us speaks of photosynthesis, another
of White Supremacist terror in the U.S.,
another of Hamlet, Act III. Some students
listen.  Others talk.  Others dream.

Airplanes overhead interrupt with
sustained blasts of noise.  Bombers.
Transports. Fighters.  The sound of
jet engines is not a discussion.

Obedient brick buildings shudder.
Our words dissolve.  We keep trying
to teach and learn for a few seconds
and then give up.  Wait.

The pilots note the campus, a point
of reference.  They yawn. The
navigators are bored.  And
the bombardiers pretend.

hans ostrom 1984/2017

Twisted Words

You're twisting my words. Thank you--
it feels good. You spirally wrought
ragamuffin into finfumagar: well done.
It had contortion coming.

And look what you did to
chirioscuro.  It is unrecognizable.
Obviously, you are not new
to wrenching words.

If you don't mind, I'd
like to keep mademoiselle
as is, for as is it's perfect:
a sound sculpture.

hans ostrom 2017

Wednesday, April 12, 2017


Scrupulously planned
and with international sanction,
an expedition discovers itself
dying on ice.

The group walks now
only to look for places
where it can walk. Each
adventurer's blood flows
down through unfeeling toes
toward an alleged sea.

In unrelenting wind and white-out
roaring from imaginary North,
air and ice become one. So do
sky and landscape, person
and expedition.

Speech becomes something
dreamed remotely--like fingers
or the word, survival. All
vocabulary accumulates
into a glacial prayer too
immense to bring out of the heart.

hans ostrom 2017

Monday, April 10, 2017

The Old Highway in Context

Well, I'll tell you, before the freeway
was there, there was the Old Highway.
Before that the old path was there, when
they used wagons. Before that,

Muhammad received Allah's words
and said, yes he said, and before
that, Adam and Eve were still around,
and before that, an asteroid

with water on it hit the Earth,
and before that the Earth and Moon
were the same ball.  Hell, I must've
drive that Old Highway a million times.

hans ostrom 2017

Friday, April 7, 2017

April: Suspect the River

It's not all poppies and blossoms. Death
knows the way to April, too. Colts die.
Arctic becomes wanton one last time.
A spouse leaves a spouse forever,
children go to war, and war goes to children.

No one will guarantee you won't die
in this naive month that smiles
between melancholy March and ruddy
May. Yes, you may do something insane,
such as long for bitter, brief, honest

December days. Or find birds bothersome,
hysterical. Sunlight isn't always easy.
The bright duty of flowers may wear on you.
I advise caution. Look at hills carefully.
Order more seeds than necessary, cash

on delivery.  And suspect the rising river.

hans ostrom 1987/2017

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Hanging Out with William Blake

It's possible to explain William Blake's writing.
I'm guilty of it myself.  I danced
with Tiriel in an article.  In  a refereed journal,
baby! I also convened with Blakeans
in Santa Cruz: ecstatic dancers, emergent
recluses, titans from research
universities,  Hippie refugees, Santa
Cruzeans, iconographers, and just
plain folks. Nothing against

Blakeans, but it seems more productive
to partake of Blake's texts
as if they formed a surreal festival.
Enjoy the music (I stole this idea
from A.E. Housman.) Put on a
costume yourself. Move into, with,
and against the crowd. In

the parlance of the Beats
(which they ripped off from
African Americans), Blake
is to be dug/not dug. Interpretation
and belief remain secondary.
Call the first if you think you
need it.  Avoid the second.

hans ostrom 2017

Lord of the Clouds

I am the Lord of the Clouds.
The low clouds.  Fog, really.
I am the Lord of the Fog!
Well, maybe more like  a minor swamp god.
However, I have aspirations
to rise from being a sentry for stagnant water.

hans ostrom 2017

Monday, March 27, 2017

Unfinished Reading

Books you don't finish reading
are like mountains you don't
finish climbing or comparisons
like this that don't seem quite right.

They are like acquaintances who
don't become friends. (This seems
better.) You have been told or
think you see what's up ahead,
but a weariness sets in. Let

the book be great for others,
you think.  Just leave me out of it. 
I've resigned from the reading of
The Fairie Queen, Clarissa, The
Castle of Crossed Destinies, 
The Charterhouse at Parma, 
countless portly mystery novels.
I pretended to finish Paradise
Lost but, as with the film,
The Titanic, I had guessed the ending.

I forced myself to climb Mann's
Magic Mountain. It took
decades, and it wasn't worth it.

When Sam Johnson (who
said of Paradise Lost, "No one
wished it longer") got tired
of a book, he threw it across
the room. Bolder than I,
he didn't resign from reading.
He fired the book.

hans ostrom 2017

Transformation: Military; or, As You Were

The Colonel said to the Corporal,
"As you were." The corporal
obeyed and turned back into
a mountain goat from Western
North America. In his mind,

the colonel saw the youthful
goat gamboling down and up
jagged bluffs.  "I shall miss him,"
said the colonel to himself--
"such a nimble fellow, and
that odd laugh!"

hans ostrom 2017

Prism Time

Having been convicted
by light, I was sentenced
to prism. A three-year
stretch in spectral stir,
just trying to survive
in fractured colors
and rainbowed lock-up.
It made me a cold,
hard, hallucinatory man.
Prism changes you.

hans ostrom 2017

Our Task

Working in heat
mean enough
to make grass snarl
and boulders ring,
I sometimes
imagined I could not
go on. Ridiculous:

I was as far from
the tortuous labor
slaves endured
for centuries as
I was from Neptune.

Their agony is
immured, is of
the bricks forming
the foundation
of this White Supremacist
monolith now adorned
at the top by
a bloated, cadaverous
cad, multiply evil.

Our task is
to wear down
White Supremacy
and wash away
the dust and grit
the project leaves,

hans ostrom 2017

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Kiruna: New Year's Eve

(December 1980)

At noon there was a murky soup of light,
which darkness drank.

Iron miners cruise in large
awkward old American cars
on Kiruna's frozen streets.
The custom is for each drunk
passenger to pay a driver
to be not drunk.

Samis sell bone-handled knives
and jewelry the color of
salmon eggs.

At the New Year's party, my Swedish
cousin and I watch shadows and smudges
of the original King Kong play
on a Finnish TV station. My cousin
is blonder than Fay Wray.

Fireworks outside seem stupid because
we didn't have to wait for darkness.
At 11:00 p.m. my cousin reports
that she always cries at the stroke
of the New Year. I'm prepared,
like a Swede, when tears travel
from her eyes like small droplets
of Sami pewter.  I'm impressed

when one tear lands in her
glass of Norwegian champagne.

1981/2017 Hans Ostrom

Return to Uncleton

Return to Uncleton

His uncle had named the town Uncleton,
served as mayor for fifty years.

Except to tidy up the dog’s grave,
he goes back only for the annual

Rust Festival. He owns snapshots
of the Rust Queens and their Oxidized Courts

from the last twenty years. The lake looks
different from before and smells.

His trousers slip off his buttocks,
and teenagers laugh, their goddamned

music thumping out of cars. He’s inherited
just a pinch of his uncle’s rage

but no property. The sun off the lake
makes him scowl. Where exactly is

the dog’s grave? He remembers how,
just a pup, the little bastard nipped him.

Uncleton, O Uncleton, I hate the way you
draw me back like english on a cue ball.

Copyright 2007/2017

The Semicolon in Modern Thought

The Semicolon in Modern Thought

Scholars disagree; they are disagreeable.
According to Jeb Nolocimis, Distinguished
Three-Legged Chair in Social Podiatry at
Bandsaw University, a hallucinating German
printer presided over the marriage of Period
and Comma in his shop, located in
Mainz-am-Rhein, circa 1498. However,
Dr. Lola Doirep of the Toots Institute
rejects Nolocimis's account as "surreal
historicism." She argues periodically
that the semicolon should be interpreted
semiotically first as inhabiting a liminal
zone vexed by indecision (stop or continue?)
and second as the right and left eyes
of an iconic emoticon, which more deeply
represents "winking post-modernity"
and "the rise of Cyber-cute." Meanwhile,
Argentinian-American poet Rexi Vivaldo,
in his long poem, "Stubby's Quest,"
alludes to the semicolon as "a sad
period's single tear, frozen in time
and space--a lament
for the mortality of clauses . . . ;"

Copyright 2008/2017 Hans Ostrom

Sunday, March 19, 2017

And the Feelings Thus Conjured

She's dipping her hands in the paint
that neuron networks manufacture.
She's rising from sleep and adorning
the darkness with bright looping
smears her fingertips eject.

The fog shows up, a loose collection
of gray blobs held inside a pale
amorphous balloon. There is a sound
of grinding, a sound of grinding,
a grinding, a sound. She says to no one,

"Sing with me: 'I am stuck on 
the balcony of REM sleep . . .!'"
We don't have to call it anything, you
know. We can just experience it
and the feelings thus conjured,

and live an entire lifetime
there in a mind-sponsored moment.

hans ostrom 2017

The Bees Are Baking

Bees inside my head wear gold aprons
because they're baking tiny tan cookies.
Of course they buzz.  It's how they talk.
They're speaking of their relationship
to time, of how they've been bees
again and again through the ages.

I ask them a question.  Horrified,
they vanish, leaving only the pollen
of their buzzing.  Oh, well.  Their
little bee kitchen smells warm.
I put all of their cookies, which taste
of you-guessed-it, on my tongue at
once because I'm suddenly quite hungry.

hans ostrom 2017

Friday, March 10, 2017

The Ladder People

Inside birch cones
live ladder people.

They build tiny
fires and carry

hand-made ladders
to cliffs, perching

there for nights
and days, singing

to each other,
letting blue moths

alight on their hands.
These people of

the birch cones
decorate their ladders

and themselves with
paint and bits of string.

Comes a light rain.
The ladder people descend.

Comes a stiff breeze,
and birch limbs toss.

Comes regret, comes
to us, and with it

arrives a deep wish to
hear the ladder people sing.

hans ostrom 2017

Underwater History

for Don Parkerson

They're there, our oceanic blunders.
Monitor and Merrimack. Spanish galleons.
And our depravities: slave ships.

Submarines like the Thrusher
could not cope with fathoms.

Weed and coral enhance remaining
shapes. A crucifix grows ocean hair.
A doubloon swells into a rock,
and a captain's iced skull lectures to
a school of fish. Diving down,

the historian cannot afford to haul
a text. Theories don't hold oxygen. He
monitors (and merrimacks) his every
breath like a meditating monk.

What comes clear in obscure depths
is the sluggishness of history,
the persistence with which events
get devoured: how a ship only gradually
slips off the reef to ultimate depths;
how accoutrements of empire
dissolve like common soda.

Floating there, the burden of breath
on his back in steel tanks, the historian
sees small sharks swim through
portholes of a destroyer.  The broadsides
of history went unheard here. Ocean,
imbued with oblivion's appetite,
accepted all defeated ships,
all wars and atrocities, settled or not.

hans ostrom 2017

The Revision

It's the end of the semester. The last essay is due
to me, professor. He, student, misses the final class
and struggles to my office afterwards. He stands
in the doorway, exhausted, and tells me his dream:

"Somehow you'd gotten hold of my essay
before I wanted to turn it in. You assigned
it a grade of the square-root of A. Your
only comment was Very suburban. Then I
stole back the essay before you had
recorded the grade.  I put an A in
the online grading system, next to my name,
and then I watched as the essay
revised itself, prose metamorphosis."

"I'll be darned," I say.  He gives me
the essay.  I look at it.  "Well," I say,
"you'd better put your name on it"

hans ostrom 2017

Wednesday, March 8, 2017


The syllables of this word seem
about to come undone.  Anyway,
dilapidated is best if you don't
have to live in it.  Sauntering
around the Sierra Nevada,
I liked seeing shacks that
had stopped lying to themselves.
They spoke highly of the failed,
exhausted miners who'd lived
in them. Weirder were

the cars that people had driven
or pushed into the manzanita brush.
Rust munches them even now.
Yes, and the quiet old imbibers
sitting at the Buckhorn bar,
weary feet in weary shoes
touching brass. These old folks
sipped from a shot glass; and waited.
And today I feel dilapidated.

hans ostrom 2017

Time to Retire Whiteness

“Whiteness–the whole constellation of practices, beliefs, attitudes, emotions that are mixed up in being white–is the problem. Whiteness is degraded and depraved[…] To the degree that we accept any of the meaning that the dominant society gives to whiteness, we white people are degraded and depraved.” 
― Robert JensenThe Heart of Whiteness: Confronting Race, Racism, and White Privilege

Way, way past time. Whiteness is a ghost
invented by fake science and a priori supremacist
hubris. Famous skeptic David Hume should have been
skeptical about his racism. Wasn't.  Joseph
Blumenach invented "Caucasian" out of nothing.
It is nothing.  We're all one species, obviously.
No races, but (don't take the bait) that doesn't mean we stop
confronting racism or that we aspire to "color
blindness."  If you want to get down with your ethnicities, cool.  Just set that
white shell aside, if you're wearing one.
Because it's probably  made you do and think
some crazy shit. Mainly it's about people
and cultures,  growing up, recovering from historical
madness, and doing the right things.

hans ostrom 2017

recommended: Nell Irvin Painter, The History of White People (2010)

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

James Baldwin's Wisdom

Further insight, from decades past, into why and how we ended up with an insane White Supremacist as president:

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Song: Solomon Fry

Solomon Fry never asked why.
He just did what he did
and said what he said.
Solomon Fry.

Solomon Fry sometimes got high.
It deepened his thoughts
about lots and lots.
Oh, Solomon Fry.

Sadly he died,
Solomon Fry,
though he lived
to be very old. 

Goodbye, goodbye,
Solomon Fry.
He died in his sleep,
we were told.

Solomon Fry never asked why.
We asked it instead.
Why is he dead?
Oh, Why did you die,
Solomon Fry?

hans ostrom 2017
(a completely fictional character, as you might have guessed)

It's Not Like the End of the World is the End of the World or Anything

Just before he went to sleep,
the world ended.  Well, began
to end: it's quite a process, after all
(and After All). He stayed awake
that night, finally slept a couple hours
as the sun rose  The wailing and yelling
coming from other abodes woke him.
He wondered if he was expected at work--
and what was in the cupboard
that might comprise supper?
It was just as he expected: even
when the world ends,
a person must plod on.

hans ostrom 2017

Considering Ear Wax

She found it necessary, apparently,
to turn away from scenes of "her"
nation's malevolent stupidity
and to consider ear wax,
which absorbs airborne particular
debris and expels it.  How,
she wondered, do the ears
know when to drive the soil-heavy
wax out of the twin tubular garages?
And could the process be applied
to the removal of a depraved president?

hans ostrom 2017

Monday, February 20, 2017

Ferocious Form

Is it art or is it nature? Yes.
Starlings' startling flock
masses, fractalates, twists,
and surges in anti-patterns.

Each bird's both medium
and member of the troupe-
image. It is a ferocity of
form, undulating in the afternoon.

hans ostrom 2017

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

If You Want It To Be

The moon is as big as you want it to be.

Even hope can be sad if you want it to be.

Addiction will peel your brain away. The
needle's a gun if you want it to be.

It can be early, if you want it to be.
The book is all yours, if you want it to be.

Like an avalanche, I regret everything.
This is an apology if you want it to be.

It's all a puzzle if you want it to be,
and this is a clue.  If you want it to be.

hans ostrom 2017

The Jagged and the Smooth

Jagged edges enhance smooth achievement--
sacred stuff welded to profane, country
coagulated with city. True worldliness
cancels all its memberships.

hans ostrom 2017

Aspects of Poem Repair

I took a poem into the repair shop. Got
the syntax changed, had the metaphors
rotated, tuned up the images. They also
cleaned the syllables to smooth out
the timing. Bad news, though:

they said it has a cracked narrative.
Not cheap to fix that! So do I pay
for a new one, go with an after-market
narrative, or just get rid of the damned poem?

I mean, the cost of labor alone . . . .
Still, it's been a dependable poem
up to now.  And you know, it sounds
weird, but you get attached to a poem.

hans ostrom 2017

Monday, February 13, 2017

Penelope Calliope

Penelope Calliope, a nonethelessing
kind of girl, gave it a whirl,
a yes of a dash, a now of a splash,
and did not dwell on the fact
that her days like everyone's
will frown into the past.

hans ostrom 2017

Friday, February 10, 2017

Intriguing Employment Opportunities

Lead Evaporator.
Geological Psychologist ["Rock Therapist"]
Undercover Vegan
Atheist Pastry Chef
Theoretical Maid
Workplace Boor (Trainee)
Senior Skeptic
Managing Drifter
Erotic Data Analyst.

hans ostrom 2017

Appointments in the Flatlands

In the '56 Chevrolet sedan, steel and wheels,
we barreled down and up and down three
canyons' worth of Sierra peaks. A mother,
an aunt, 2-3 kids, no seat belts, logging trucks
and steep killer drops to make it interesting.

Eight pistons pushed us through the forest.
Ma and Aunt sang folk songs in two-part
harmony, Clementine drowning and Tom
Dooley killing. I was the youngest in the car
and brooded on ghastly lyrics instead of

lightening up with the lilt. And I couldn't
sing worth a shit. If you looked close
out the window, you saw smears and blurs,
if far, you saw the forest staying still.
Breton would have envied the provincial

surrealism.  Berryman, D.D.S., soon
loomed, mustachioed. His tooth drill
was slow and sullen.  What did I know,
what did we know? Only that life
unfolds and boulders are everywhere.

hans ostrom 2017

Plain as Day

"As plain as day," they say.
That's not very plain.
Revelations of sun's light
bewilder much more than
those of the moon's, which
is plainly a universal blue kiss.

hans ostrom 2-17

Salamander Row

I'm going down to Salamander Row,
where the quick, cool creek plays jazz
of its running for ferns and moss.

I'm going down to Salamander Row
to lose my sense of loss.
Beneath overhanging branches,

the salamanders live moistly
as meditative creatures. They
aren't teachers, but I learn

from their calm there, and the
shaded ambiance of Salamander
Row creates a balm there.

hans ostrom 2017

Friday, February 3, 2017

Like a Bank Camera

She advised him: "Think
of yourself as a bank camera
and just observe." He said,
"So I'm looking for potential
robbers?" She said, "Don't
be silly--you are just looking,
observing in a detached way.
A bank camera has no emotion."
"God damn it," he said,
"I know a camera has no emotion!"
She looked at him,
but not as a bank camera would.

hans ostrom 2017

Monday, January 30, 2017

Nude Not Descending a Staircase

The nude descending a staircase
never moves--forget reaching the landing.
She stays trapped in that manic
wheatsheaf of lines and angles,
poor thing. I guess Duschamp
felt freer painting it up that way.

True, Mona Lisa is locked in, too,
except she gets to relax,
and her smile's in charge,
whereas the nude not descending
a staircase is always on call
and off balance. She has to be ready
to move, yet isn't allowed
even to get dressed.

hans ostrom 2017

White Idols

Go to Church,
vote for a White Supremacist.
Go to Church,
vote for a rapist.
Go to Church,
vote for a nihilist.
Go to Church,
vote for a polyurethane
caesar. Render
your religious values
unto him. Go ahead
and get down with
your pious bad self
and pray to a White Idol.

hans ostrom 2017

Introductory Doom

It may come rather soon,
our introductory doom,
now that the White folks,
South and Midwest,
made a sociopath a President.

He, his fatuous goons, his
enablers, apologists, and
tolerators, aren't satisfied
with their perch high up
in capitalism. Nope.

They must destroy. They
must inflict, control,
degrade. They must
torture, ruin, exclude.
They must champion

stupidity. Their politics,
religion, economics, and
culture are all hollowed out,
vibrant fiber replaced
by one form of depravity

or another. They symbolize
America. The run the nihilistic
show. They oversee crimes,
neglect, and ignorance. They
craft our introductory doom.

hans ostrom 2017

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

How Are You Enjoying the Dictatorship?

Oh, look, America,
at what White Supremacy made you do.
Fear of change, fear of knowledge, too.
Oh, look, White men, at what
never growing up has set loose
like a plague.
Oh, look, White women
at what the White men mean
to do with your body,
citing their whacked-out version
of Scripture. Still flying
the Confederate flag, still
proud of slavery and Jim Crow?
It's a nice way to show
you don't know right from wrong.
Oh, look, America,
at what snorting celebrity
will get you. That bloated
"billionaire" racist on top
means you've hit bottom,
where the dictator's people
will stomp you,--just their
way of thanking you for
your support.

hans ostrom 2017

Another Good Surreal Night in Paris

That one night in Paris, we searched
for a Mexican restaurant and found it.
Waitresses wore tight bluejeans and
cowboy boots. Nashville music
thumped and twanged.

It was a sincerely inauthentic place.
That made us happy. It brought to mind
California, where only geology
is originally from there.

We ate les tacos and drank Dutch beer.
Looked across a dark courtyard
and spied, two floors up in a kind
of warehouse, ballet dancers,
dozens of them. They faced
the instructor, stretched and jumped
to music we could not hear.

A fire-eater appeared in the courtyard.
He licked a long match and guzzled
fuel. Tipped his head back, roared
flame into night. We saw his small
audience gasp. Full,

we sipped our beers. Saw that the dancers
were drenched in sweat. When the man
with the oboe walked in, we knew
we weren't supposed to be surprised.

hans ostrom 1981/2017

Plain States

We drive a tan Ford in Kansas.
We're the heart of the Census.

We vote the person, also the Party.
We wash our clothes when they're dirty.

We like to shop at Walmart or Penney.
We save our money.

We like TV and ice cream.
We don't dream.

Our daughter's Mary; the boy, John.
When we fought wars, we won.

Why did you stop here, stranger?
Now you'll have to stay.  Forever.

hans ostrom 2017

They Have Their There, We Have Our Here

Back there they speak of out here.
Out here we speak of going
back there. That doesn't mean we
go. Being from out here, we will
never be from back there or welcome.
Even if we go back there, here
will hold us still.  They will always
see the out in us and the here
in how we do things.  And they will
always want everyone everywhere,
including us out here, to agree
that back there is the best. Out here
we don't see things that way.

hans ostrom 2017

Monday, January 23, 2017

Partial Report from Childhood

Heights: obviously perilous.
Snow: tedious, never
as pleasurable as they would
persuade you it is. Adults:
loud and/or tired. Family:

a pecking order and a proliferation
of comparisons. School:
40% cruelty, 50% boredom,
10% pleasure. Men: in charge,
even if no one knows why.

Women: perfumed, patient,
smarter than they act.
Girls: fascinating, mercurial.
Did I mention fascinating?

Books: reliable. The future:
an absentee landlord.

hans ostrom 2017

Eve and Adam Evicted by Landlord

So after Eve and Adam got their Know on,
God evicted them, but notice please
that Eden stayed right there, the primest
piece of real estate there ever was,
and was not, for sale. It is a glorious
space, ipso and facto. It's round and flat
and low and high and wet and dry,
packed with flora, also fauna, and
maybe, yes, a sauna, oh why not?
Can I tell you where it is and why?
Oh, I wish. Or do I? Better not to know,
perhaps, Wasn't that the lesson of
eviction? Let's  ask dove and crow.

hans ostrom 2017

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Ghost Pavilion

I have been admitted to
the Ghost Pavilion,
which rises from a
plateau beyond fatalism.

There one is invited
to view reproductions
of the groups and squads
and masses of faces

one has passed by,
through, or among
in life. Students at
the Ghost Pavilion

accept that reality
exists but also learn
that anybody's perceptions
of it are little more than

a cache of roughly
recorded glimpses.

hans ostrom 2017

What a Lovely Afternoon

(acknowledging Calvin and Hobbs, and Henry C.)

What a lovely afternoon,
in spite of the fascist President
of Amerixon and his cabinet
full of rapacious rats. What
a lovely afternoon, shining
down on poverty and pain
and insufficient rain. What

are we going to do about this
fix in which science is treated
as a cartoon and hateful lore
displaces logic?  Not sure

we can do anything much
(but what a lovely afternoon)
except watch a culture try
to commit suicide and take
so many innocent people with it.

hans ostrom 2017

In Old Palm Springs

In old Palm Springs, north, just beyond
the charming attempts at glamour,
trunks of big palm trees look like
elephants' legs: parched, dermatologically
checked, and weary.  The Earth
is each palm's shoe, and all the trees
are taking a walk through space.

hans ostrom 2017

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Old Fables

I prefer the older animal books for children--
the ones in which creatures act, dress,
and talk like humans but aren't cute.

In the illustrations, they still look
like creatures, seem embarrassed
by the costumes given them--

a frog in coat and vest, a fox
wearing a scarf.  But in those books
they throw themselves into the difficult

roles. I saw that in the stories, and
that's what interested me--the animals'
existential struggle with entertainment.

hans ostrom 2017

Cross-Examination Song

I have no further questions
for this witness.

He really doesn't seem
to know his business.

He said he saw the man
but changed his tale again.

Prevarication displays
symptoms like a sickness.

hans ostrom 2017

Fixated, Exasperated

I've been trying to write
about other things,
but I'm fixated on
White Supremacy, what
a deadly, depraved sink-hole
it is, how it elected a racist
rapist President, and how
White folks let it persist,
nourish it, become
zombies in its death-cult army.

hans ostrom 2017

Be Careful What

"Be careful what you wish for; you may get it."

--Old Saying, variously attributed

Be careful what you fish for. It
may catch you. Be careful who
you swish for (for whom), for
you may get swashed or even
buckled. Be careful what you
kiss for, for kissing is a kind of wish.

Be careful what you dish, not not
because you later may have to take
it, but because dishing carefully
is as we know the right thing to do.

"Be careful what you hiss for":
a feline admonition.

hans ostrom 2017