Thursday, June 30, 2011

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

"the two hanks," by Carter Monroe

"Grief for the Number Ten," by Hans Ostrom

"Heaven," by Robert Creeley

How Novels Begin: OLIVER TWIST, by Charles Dickens

If They


If They

If they aren't going to be near your death-bed,
If they never thought well of you,
If they never thought of you,
If they belittled everything you did even
If they thought of you,

If they never helped you dig
in the ground when you were
digging in the ground,
If they never helped you get
better when you were ill,
If they never gave you a break,
If they never helped to fix
your leaking roof,
If they never paid for a drink,
If they never had a kind word
for you or anybody else,
If they sucked up to power
and back-stabbed their associates,
If they never thought things through,
If they thought empathy was for suckers,
If they never listened,
If they never knew one goddamned
thing about you & never cared to,
Et Cetera, then

Why do you care what they think
about you, about people you care for,
and about matters dear to you?
If they are whom they have shown
themselves to be, then let them
drift on their own sea and disappear,
and disappear.

Copyright 2011 Hans Ostrom

Tuesday, June 7, 2011




Think red cedar consider aroma mountain geology owned science Descartes God wheat bread ground fire husbandry gather stay goat dog domesticate darkness fear myth anything can kill hope medicine faith.

Cedar consider stare wind touch-red-bark, smell cedar-sap. Memory light/no light, life/no life. Red resin. Consider cedar. Think cedar your life memory green memory red thick bark.

Yellow pollen wheat faith science knows nothing sure is ground fear darkness and cold death faith cedar rooted in ground in soil in rock. Water.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Red Polka-Dot Dress

[re-posting this one from another blog, Red Tales]

There is a photograph of his mother wearing a dress with red polka-dots on a white background. The photograph is a color print from the negative film of a snapshot taken after the mid-point of the 20th century.

This is the most famous dress his mother owned, as things turned out. He thinks about her putting it on that day to get ready for the party, a summer-party in the High Sierra. He thinks of her thinking that the party will be a good time, an open field of behavior, an earned respite from the work of raising three children and tending one husband in rugged country 4,500 feet above sea level.

The son knows she doesn't, on that day, see the dress as a symbol in so many words or thoughts. But he imagines she looks at herself in the circular mirror of the "waterfall" bureau, imagines she sees the dress contrasting with her deep summer tan and blue eyes just so. The image she sees is attractive, and it satisfies her. The party is going to happen. She and her husband are hosting the party. The husband is not an easy husband to have. His personality is as hard and well defined as a sheer stone bluff in the Sierra. He is a rugged, overwhelming man, with a grudge against life that's masked by a child's sense of mirth, a prophet's sense of will, a peasant's capacity to toil, and a glad smile as broad as a highway-billboard. Luckily, liquor makes him gladder still. The son knows the mother knew of other women's husbands whom liquor made mean, made violent.

At the party, there will be work but also other women to do the work, so the work will seem like part of the party. There will be laughter, liquor, and food--and several compliments about the dress, which seems that day to be the perfect summer-dress, sleeveless, cotton, red polka-dots on a white background. Everyone at the party will know a great deal about World War II, hard work, the Great Depression, and the English language as spoken colloquially in the United States of America.

None of it will escape the avalanche of time, although snapshots, saving the dress, and nonfiction writing are amusing tactics of delay, the poignant motions of an amateur magician's hands, with Death sitting in the audience like the bald figure in Bergman's The Seventh Seal.

Thank God, he thinks, his mother didn't come close to thinking thoughts as melodramatic as "none of it will escape the avalanche of time," etc., that day. Thank God his mother never saw The Seventh Seal and asked him questions about the film. He would have tried to answer the questions, and his mother would have remained unconvinced by the answers. She would have disliked the film as much as she disliked puppets of any kind.

The white dress with red polka-dots fit, the alpine sun shone, friends and acquaintances arrived, and everyone acted as if they weren't about to die, and when people act that way, and they should, they seem untroubled and, indeed, immortal.

By his accounting, all the adults who attended that party are dead. The polka-dotted dress hangs in the closet of a daughter-in-law, and one of the cousins, the many cousins, painted a watercolor featuring the dress hanging on a clothesline. The dress is a cut and stitched quaint decorated piece of cloth. The snapshot lies between pages on a shelf somewhere.

Everything is taking place and changing at a speed humans cannot, do not, and best not comprehend fully. In a way, the party was over before his mother ever put on the dress, but she didn't see it that way, and that day, that's part of what mattered, he thinks.

The scandal of time is that it allows humans just enough time to arrange their thoughts and manage their habits so as to avoid confronting the scandal of time every moment. Scandalously, time makes routine seem reasonable and a bright dress permanent, and it makes summer-parties seem like a fair exchange.

How Novels Begin: "The Spy Who Came In From the Cold," by John Le Carré

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Dissertation: A Poem


Dissertation: A Poem

Recent scholars have overlooked
the fact that I need a topic for
my dissertation, so I'm inventing
one and pretending my dissertation
will fill a niche.  This study, then,

brings together punctuation-marks,
words, phrases, clauses, sentences,
paragraphs, and page numbers
in a way that will help it slip past

my dissertation-committee, who
doomed themselves to read
dissertations, or to pretend to,
by writing one themselves, or

pretending to.  The weight of
Sisyphus's boulder divided by
the weight of a dissertation
equals the weight of absurdity
generated by the process of

writing a dissertation. As a
genre, "dissertation" is like
a carcass picked at by
vultures who aren't hungry.
The carcass isn't going any-
where, and even the vultures
don't like looking at it.

I assure you, however,
moreover, and heretofore,
that my dissertation will rise
from the dead, will have flesh
on its html bones, and will

carry me into a town where
I shall be doctored. A
dissertation is a required
thing, as is all hazing: this
is one important them walking
through my dissertation.

Copyright 2011