Friday, November 27, 2020

Budgetary Matters

 [a revision of one I posted years ago]

The spreadsheet is all before you. The farther
left you travel, the more desirable things become.

Indeed the items named seem not just necessary
but inevitable, prophesied. As you travel toward

the reckoning right hand of calculation, acquisition
seems unlikely. You think of Zeno's Paradox.

You begin to feel an urge to save rubber-bands
and bits of string, to eat left-overs, sew

your own clothes, share your food with
people society discounts. When you finally arrive

in the severe, humorless zone of the numbers-column,
you then descend toward the hell of the Bottom Line,

which is, oddly enough, shown by two lines.
At that frontier, expenses devour entrails of income.

Accountants costumed in gray feathers perform
a ghastly arithmetical dance. You hear someone

mumble, "Nothing we can afford is worth doing,"
to which you respond, "Nothing worth doing

is quantifiable," which you don't believe.
You stand up and demand to know the origin

of money. You are forcibly subtracted
from the room. As you depart, you

hear someone say, "I think we just found
some extra money in the budget!"

"Passageways," by Antonio Machado

 A reading/video of a short poem by Seville-born poet Antonio Machado (1879-1939). Not sure who the translator is, but Machado's translator's include Willis Barnstone, Robert Bly, and Alan Trueblood.

Thursday, November 26, 2020

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

"The Composer," by W.H. Auden

 Reading/video of a short poem by Mr. Wystan Hugh Auden in which he distinguishes between music and other arts. Poem is from his Collected Poems from Knopf.

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

It's 1954, And Emmett Kelly Remembers . . .

 . . . the Hartford, Connecticut, circus fire,
1944: the big tent went up, blazing,

and people panicked like animals,
but the big cats got strangely calm.

The famous clown rushed from
the small dressing-tent in makeup,

managed more authority than a cop
because a clown's not supposed

to speak, so when he spoke,
the wild eyed customers listened.

They let him save their lives
with a frown.  Back in his tent,

he said to Willie in the mirror,
"No show tonight. No show

in Clown Alley."  Other clowns
entered, hysterical, told who'd lived,

who hadn't. (168 hadn't.)
'You were wonderful, ' they told Emmett,

who had removed half of Willie's face.
Kelly shrugged, said:  'I did what I could.'

Now in 1954, Madison Square Garden,
Emmett's put on half of Willie's face.

He feels weary.  He tells an interviewer,
"Clowning is nothing you can study for."

Monday, November 23, 2020

A Pebble in the Gravel

Fly-fishing in the North Yuba River
made for miniature revelations
that rose out of casting
and catching, wading and releasing;
out of breathing, walking, slipping,
falling, rising; from deepening dusks, darkening
pools. Sometimes the stream

clarified underwater gravel and boulders;
whorls of debris appeared as if
magnified: and a trout came up,
stared at duplicity, declined. Water
returned to its blurred blend
of liquid window, liquid door.
Sometimes a hatch of gnats
exploded into existence--its own,
mine, the canyon's, Earth's. Or: suddenly

a snake.  
Or: a deer, staring, black
nostrils flaring. Or: kingfisher, ouzel,
hawk, robin.  Bat. Or: one's awareness
of one's self as a loose knot
of ambition, instinct, appetite,
motor skills, boredom--together cast
briefly over water, offered.

Sometimes the stream
roared quietly, mumbled forcefully,
and against such sound (North
Yuba, North Yuba), awareness
of one's thin, tentative presence
in presence might rise briefly,
leap, re-submerge.

Of Being

Birth drops us at a train station
near the lip of chaos.

We step off the Evolution Express
carrying a valise of neurons.

We are headed nowhere
and already there.

We live between our bones,
napping in hammocks of selfhood.

hans ostrom 1999/2020

"Metallic Traces"

Metallic traces, yesterday's
steel blues. Metallic traces,
how her mouth tasted--well, it
tasted real. Traces of mercury
in rivers, iron from sloughing
ships at sea's bottom. Everything
that made sense doesn't make
sense anymore. What was all
that foundry forging for? 

Metallic traces, old radio
antennas still seizing sounds
from air and passing them 
along though no one's hearing
because no one's listening. 

hans ostrom 2020

Sunday, November 22, 2020


Her frown made me sad--
kind of like tired, pliable carrots
do. Whereas her perfume
delighted like a flower concert
played by multicolored clouds. 

When she talked, I heard
her words as vocal chords
thrummed into the present
moment. And when she 
smiled at me--at me!--

well, I wanted to applaud
in a way that voiced
desire for an encore,
for me an encore.  

hans ostrom 2020

Saturday, November 21, 2020