Monday, January 13, 2020

Clark Terry's Ballads

(recording: Clark After Dark)

Come inside, where it's mellow dusk
and bourbon brown. I can turn it into noon
at any time, then back to blurry twilight. All
right, come outside--look: red, yellow, and blue
blossoms still want to be seen. Listen

to vespering birds, hear wordless
words of traffic, of trees in rustle
and streets in hustle. Back inside
we'll take note of desire, climb a set
of stairs, so easily. We might be

caught unawares by something sweet
smiling there in mischievous shadows.
It could be us in mirror. It could be
a woman or a man or a ghost. Or just
the house itself, itself, listening.

hans ostrom 2020

Under a Roof, Wondering

Environmental doom, catastrophic war: these clots
of syllables squat in my mind when my mind

prefers to ponder cold rain coming in from
the Pacific, coming down with uncanny steadiness,

crackling on roofs and windows like spiders
wearing cleats. I order fresher syllables to arrive

carrying different ideas--rivulets, storm, traffic
rush, water (water!) I offer them a hot beverage,

tell them to let their vowels and consonants
rest a while, because I feel like just hanging out

with some words tonight, under a roof, wondering.

hans ostrom 2020

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Scene Blue and Green

The scene is blue and green.
Blue like shadow indigo.
Green like pine and fir tree
boughs. Blue and green cover

tall roughly rounded mountains,
ravines between. Air
is almost too fresh to be
other than cherished. The day

is cold and gray. You are cold,
not gray. You see a mist-fog
rise from a quick narrow river
into mountains and ravines,
into green and blue. You think,

the scene is not officially
beautiful, commodity pretty,
but to you superb. You feel

the scene insinuating sadness,
wielding power. Grief
and irrevocable loneliness
seem involved. You
want to go in and get warm
but not enough to leave
the scene of seeing blue and green.

hans ostrom 2020

Saturday, December 21, 2019

Transformation: Russian Poet

When I become a Russian poet,
I write lines like "I walked home
from the universe after midnight."
In my diary, I record hunger,
infatuation, death, more death,
prayer, gibberish--and passion
that screams in my throat.

I read American poetry
and wonder, "When will
they ever grow up?" I was
born grown up. It's the Russian
way. I write poems
about white birches, inconstant
lovers, and ice--in spite
of myself. Poetry was invented
everywhere but especially,
especially in Russia.

hans ostrom 2019

Know Your Place

Virtual virtiginous vanity,
digital indignities,
resounding robotic rhetoric: oh,
what shall we tell the angels
when we see them? No

worries: angels own their
own hyper-reality and know
their way around algorithmic
dances that created them.

Perhaps you find yourself
wishing to turn away
from the sheer volume and mass
of human activity. Well,

you may not. It's not
allowed. Though exponentially
trivial, you remain a datum.
Know your place. And don't
leave it.

hans ostrom 2019

Monday, December 9, 2019

A Little Song of Should and Would and Could

I should have done this,
and I should have done that.
I should have been a forester
and worn a woodsy hat.

I could have done that,
and I could have done this.
I could have climbed Everest
had I not been so remiss.

I would have done less,
and I would have done more
had I had a better notion
of what this life is for.

Regret is rather useless,
regret is kind of dumb.
Cussing out oneself
only makes one numb.

I hope you're doing what
you should and could and would
according to your tastes
and what you think is good.

And what you think is good:
I hope it makes some sense.
Too many make bad good
Under thus-and-such pretense.

hans ostrom 2019

Saturday, December 7, 2019

Dublin Perambulation

Parnell's Protestant, pugnacious statue
directs foot traffic, which today
is syrupy slow and sweet, a mix
of Kerry green and Dublin blue
on the big day of Gaelic football
championships match: "All

amateur, mind you, and good
for the family," says everyone
we've listened to about the matter.

On wide O'Connell Street,
buskers and beggars attract
brassy coins like bees
in the names of art and pity.

Then here comes the autumn
breeze, as fresh as, well,
I don't know what, but
it's hauling ass down the street.

And here comes a casino,
"Dr. Quigley's Goodtimes Emporium,"
how droll, how not-Las-Vegas.
Skulking, big, and befuddled,
I buy braided strands of cerulean
wool yarn and declare ritual
loyalty to the Boys in Blue."

But really I'm thinking of the
main fortress in town. It is
circular, and it's a library.
Two great ideas married.

My hip aches like history's teeth,
and although I appreciate Yeats
and Joyce, Lady Gregory
and Eavan Boland, and 1916,
and the troubles, and wit, I just want
some brown bread and jam..

Anxious shrieking seagulls
in St. Stephen's Green seem
to agree with me. Dublin's
and easy city, if--as with all
cities--you have a bit of money.
The swan I see in the big
pond came from Coole,
that's a lie, and I'm hungry.

hans ostrom 2019

Friday, December 6, 2019

And the Smiles Don't Disappear

In another century, you walked
across Litenyny Bridge,
St. Petersburg. Snow with notions
of rain fell tangentially then.
You'd come from Sweden
expecting nothing. The city
was scuffed, stained, and strained.
Puffing buses spewed black exhaust,
hauling exhausted people. You
were on your way to the Finland
Station, because of what you'd read,
not what you'd lived. The river
was white. And beautiful.

Now in this century, lights
of St. Petersburg have bloomed.
The Bronze Horseman's vision
of the City has been buffed.
Hope's been hauled up out
of sad pits. People breathe
and laugh, walk to school
and work in good clothes.
Fresh vegetables for all.
Revolution enough, but don't
tell Lenin. When in St. Petersburg,

you must look for Akhmatova's
house, well at least one she lived
in. Because you like living,
you seek beet soup in September
as rain with notions of sunshine
falls in a kindly way on the massive
monuments, on peoples hats
and umbrellas, on their smiles,
which don't disappear.

hans ostrom 2019

Roll the Boulder

Roll the boulder away,
I say. Push the rock.
Don't let it block
the entrance to enchantment.

They say a muscular angel
rolled the boulder
away, letting a certain
spirit be on its crucial way.

Hey, I don't know,
I wasn't there. Many women
were. I defer. I
do not demur. Roll

the obstinate stone
away from dispiriting
obstacles. As you push,
think of strong angels.

hans ostrom 

What Happened to What Happened

I know what happened
to what happened. It sits
right here in my hand
like a small bird,
a little bit of sand,
or a few notes that fell
out of a song.

hans ostrom 2019

Monday, November 25, 2019

Boo Hoo

Once I started crying,
I didn't stop. A sizzling
lahar of salt tears poured
out. Buildings of my
interior life fell over.
Hurricanes and typhoons
raked shaky coasts
where grief had lived
in mansions.

Geysers of weeping
spewed, and a billion
drums pounded iron
roofs with rain. All

my brilliant boats went
belly up or bow down.
In the end I stood like a stone
statue in a swamp
and wondered what another
day might bring or take.

Tactically, I'll revisit
stoicism and make my way
back to a dry plateau
where dead brush hisses
in hot wind. Home at last.

hans ostrom 2019

City Fixer

I went around the city
fixing things today.
With my wrench, I fixed
a tree, tightening its
branches. I advised
a tall building on how
to improve its posture.

One of the parks was
badly fractured. I used
special bolts to mend it.
Logic dictated that I
give food to a hungry
woman. I tried to

spray the mayor
with political  disinfectant
but was rebuffed. Now
I'm conducting an ad
hoc choir on the
underground train,
for as you know the noise
of the metro begs
for assistance. Citizens,
I am here for you.

hans ostrom 2019

When a Night Takes

When a night takes years
to pass and fever builds
a monstrous city in your brain,
you get some funny notions
about time. You writhe

in space like a wounded snake
and sweat like a stoker. God
can't hear you over the wreckage
of sounds in your head.

The pain belongs to someone who
reminds you of you, who
considers becoming terrified,
but that takes energy. And
from tomorrow's direction
comes the strangest thing,
which is you don't know what.

hans ostrom 2019