Friday, December 27, 2013

Oh, Of Course, Yes

Oh, of course, yes sir,
I'd very much like to pay
to watch another film
about sociopathic Americans
starring Robert De Niro or
it-doesn't-matter-who. Yes,
fascinating, humorous, ha-ha,
chuckles. No, of course,
there really aren't any
other subjects for cinema
that are quite as interesting
and exciting. Yes, sir, I am
very happy with the cinema
you provide. You are a genius!
Everyone in Hollywood is a genius!

hans ostrom 2013

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Zombie Poets

They're not the Undead.
They're the Unread.

They stagger toward you
in cafes and bars,
carrying moist notebooks,
possibly wearing berets.

(Some of them were once
famous and popular. Old
anthologies muffle their
screams like thick

They are all over
the Internet, the Unread.
("Eloise, why does he write
'they" and not 'we'?")

So much writing, so
little reading. They occupy
the night. They read poems
outside closed libraries.

They get high, the Unread,
and they behave badly in hopes
of becoming the next Bukowski.

In your nightmare,
they smother you with thousands
of saddle-stapled chapbooks
and eat from your refrigerator.
Cue ghostly music.. . . The Unread!

hans ostrom 2013

These Things Called Years

These artificial things called "years":
how annoying. They're perceptual engines
that drive us through our lives, keep us
rushed and harried, depressed and habituated.

It all starts again on "January First,"
which we're urged to celebrate. On the
Second, we must report to work on time
or get fired, and we must start

counting the god-damned shopping-days left
til the Apocalyptic Sale. (Everything must go.)

hans ostrom 2013

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Christmas Found Poem

You should know two things before you read this. One, the language was directed at me, and, two, there is cursing.

Christmas Found Poem

I think you
are the only
one I can
think of who
would say something
like ". . . Those
fucking Christmas

hans ostrom 2013

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Just An Acre

If counting and accounting
and statistics count, oh
so to speak, then I have
by that accounting, well,
existed. There is a record
of me. Two questions: Is
there a record of you? And,
if there is, so what?

Women's bodies are
slightly and infinitely
different from
men's bodies. This
difference has fueled
many of my nights
on Earth. If you

would argue about
of sex, of gender,
then I applaud you.

I'm just an acre
of existence that
broke off. I'm just
a congregation of
lore, learning,

hans ostrom 2013

"San Joaquin," by William Everson

Way Past Post-Whatever

You're no frond of mine.
When I deploy an avatar,
I am no friend of me,
and yet of course I will
be online-intimate with you.

If everything were all right
off-line, online would not
be such a place of refuge.

I am not a simple man.
For I have not evolved at least
that far.I am the make-shift product
of the what-before-me-came.
I have no name.

We're out here, there isn't
any map, and our compasses
have collapsed. This all to me
is good news. I understand
why you think otherwise.

I am no friend. I am no
fiend. That said I listen.

hans ostrom 2013

Thursday, December 12, 2013

I Have Seen

I have seen the sun
and I fear the calamities.
I have seen the sun
and I seek no remedies.

I have seen the moon
and I've kissed the cool air.
I have seen the moon
and glimpsed its jeweled lair.

I have seen the stars,
mostly in books, alas.
I have seen the stars:
the avant-garde of mass.

hans ostrom 2013

Monday, December 9, 2013


Some Harvard professor left a parking citation
on my bicycle. It said, "You are extra-canonical,
so get out of here." I saw a shard of
greisen (a rock of quartz and white mica)
on the ground and felt better. Just then

Donnie came buy, so I bought him a cup
of coffee and me one, too, and as we
sipped I said, "Donnie, a screen memory
is a memory a person can handle so the
person uses that to block a memory
that's too painful when called up."
Donnie said, "Hard to prove that
kind of thing, but that don't
mean it ain't real." People at

the next table were talking about
a new kind of crampon, and Donnie
said, "Where do you think they got
the name 'Tampon'?" I said I didn't
know, and then I imagined all of
reality spreading out from that
place, our conversation, and
the exact texture of the scene,
from murmur to odor to costumes
and movement, endless I say
endless physical, social, chemical,
economic, biological, and
extra-canonical transactions."It

really is all quite fascinating
in spite of its problems, isn't it?"
said Donnie. "Yes, it is," I replied.

hans ostrom 2013

Saturday, December 7, 2013

"1970s Spasm"

Hey, man--hey, you net-box jumper
and rainbow-thumper.
I'm seeing
albums raining down without their
covers. I mean thousands
of black albums coming on in
like swarthy, thin UFOs. ("It
just means it's unidentified,
okay? You need to fucking
lay back, man.") And I see now
the complex map of my life
is being etched by a diamond
needle, digging into undulant
vinyl, shined on by blue
lava-light. Hey, play the
other side, play the other
side, hey play--oh, okay,
cool. (It's getting cold.)
Nice tuner! I need a beer.

hans ostrom 2013

"God to Hungry Child," by Langston Hughes

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Design or Accident

That which happens, especially the bad:
is it design or accident? we ask.
Often we ask it. Many who are also human
will provide responses. You have
heard the range of answers.

Reality, that
universal beast, does not
respond, except for its
continual and infinite shrug,
which can be interpreted
as yes or no or maybe
or I don't understand the question.

hans ostrom 2013

What Exactly Do You Mean?

Divine algorithms
press against
brittle positivist
walls, disturbing
the binary peace.
God did well in math.

hans ostrom 2013

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

I'm Going To Need You To

I am going to need you to
give me your license and registration.
I am going to need you to
show me your hands.
I am going to need you to
get out of the car.
I am going to need you to
get down, get down!
I am going to need you to
shut up, stop talking.
I am going to need you to
what the fuck are you doing?
I am going to need you to
stop acting Not White.
I am going to need you to
give me a reason.
I am going to need you to
be ignorant of history.
I am going to need you to
die from the bullets I shoot.
I am going to need you to
I am going to need you to
not be photographed.
I am going to need you to
understand I need my union rep.
I am going to need you to
accept the verdict.
I am going to need you to
not go crazy, riot, fight.
I am going to need you to
accept what's right.
I am going to need to
accept what is RIGHT.
I am going to need you.

hans ostrom 2013

Monday, December 2, 2013

"Supremacy," by Edwin Arlington Robinson


You're in the toiling moment,
grunting, swatting mosquitoes
attracted by your sweat,
separating rocks from dirt.
You're using a pick, you're
shoveling, you're measuring
for length, depth, and width.

And then you're standing in a
grave, hearing your lungs
heave for breath, wiping
your forehead with a work-shirt
sleeve. You're listening

to a bird or two in the still
cemetery. It takes effort
to get out of the dug grave.
You take a last look,
think briefly of a body
in a box, then move into

whatever's left of the flow
called day, called life,
before your consciousness
is picked from your body
and your body,
if not burnt up,
is put in a grave to mold
and to rot and to be food
for sundry creatures
in their own version of the flow.

Yes, your body,
which once dug a grave,
will go into a grave
somebody dug, probably
not by hand like you
but with machinery.

hans ostrom 2013

Sunday, December 1, 2013

At Lake Polyester

I was fly-casting aspersions

into the fetid waters

of Lake Polyester when

a squad of bankers

bum-rushed me

and knocked me about.

“Stay off our land, drifter,”

they said. I let them say

it twice more, for practice,

and then said, “This isn’t

your land, and I’m not

a drifter.” They said Oh

and ran fast to find

legal counsel. Several

women studying their

own voluptuousness

waved to me from

across the lake. Sunlight

on their curves and

globes became a

sermon, and I believed.

hans ostrom 2013

Monday, November 25, 2013

A Day, A Season

(Mainz, Germany)

At dusk suddenly shrubs
blacken like over-ripe fruit.

Cries of children playing
soccer diminish. In last light,

women walk dogs in the park
before winos shuffle in,

rustling like cockroaches.
These and other gestures

of light, air, traffic, hunger,
routine, and business seem this

evening profound enough to be
called seasonal. The evening

seems large. There was the solitary
dying sunflower in the old woman's

garden today. Its sagging head
looked tragically rotten. Its

sad, dappled leaves hung like the fins
of a beached sea-mammal. Old

people boarding the bus now
in Mainz-Bretzenheim climb

into gray light. The bus
groans away from the curb.

hans ostrom 1980/2013

Friday, November 22, 2013

Including Styrofoam, Blender, and Bomb

A lime-green blender vomits a mixture. The party.
The shovel in the shed equals stolen property.

An image of the spider's body remains on the page
of the book that crushed the spider. Ideogram.

As you talk, I stare at your fingernails,
which gleam like oiled leaves under neon.

She refuses to sell her father's anvil.
We used to poke needles just under and through our skin:

no blood. The man looked at six tomatoes
and regretted inviting friends to dinner.

I want to fry many minnows,
she said. Many. ("She's losing it.")

A drawer is filled with electrical cords--
black, white, orange: to what end?

When he was eight years old, he struck another
child on the head with a croquet mallet. Clinically.

What do you mean the condom broke?
What do you mean what do you mean?

The manager pulled on his moist nose and said,
"We are going to have to wrap up this meeting."

Closure. There was nothing left of the car.
An undetonated rocket was found in the village.

The photograph is of a child's hat in
a mud puddle, along with a styrofoam container.

Green oil makes the puddle shine in the photo.
I don't know. Have you looked online?

hans ostrom

Some prompts for writing L-A-N-G-U-A-G-E poetry and/or surrealistic poetry

(Some prompts we used in a poetry class today, based in part on some reading we did (Breton's Surrealist Manifesto, poems by Hejinian, Bly, and Tate, among others.)

#2 was the most popular choice, followed by #4

1. Describe any ordinary task or activity—brushing your teeth, buying a cup of coffee, whatever—and interject random images, actions, or utterances to create the effect of a dream.
2. Write down memories of your life, one sentence per memory, but put them in random order. Events, images, things you said, things you heard others say, etc.
3. Think about a boring situation you had to/have to endure. Waiting at an airport. Listening to a professor. Etc. Then describe it with a list of extravagant comparisons. “Waiting at the airport is like cooking dragon-flesh with a Zippo lighter.” And the similes should be unrelated to on another; that is, you are not developing a conceit.
4. Describe a situation or an event that, as you recall it, did in fact seem surreal at the time. Try to capture that quality of surrealism.
5. Write down things (phrases, utterances, opinions) you hear quite a lot—from friends, room-mates, professors, co-workers, family, people you overhear. They should be unrelated. Don’t try to organize them.
6. Think of unrelated objects. A blender, a shovel, a book, a hubcap (e.g.). For each object, describe an action, which need not be logical. “The book ate a moth.” One description or action per object, then move on to the next object and its action.

hans ostrom

Beat-Memo Homage

Re-posting one from 2009.

Beat-Memo Homage: Dig It

You don't (or I don't, or one doesn't) hear anyone say, "I dig that" or "I can dig that" in the ancient hipster or old-Beatnik sense of "I understand that" or "I'm in tune with that" much anymore--except perhaps when people are genially mocking the usage.

I still recall fondly the pop-song, "Grazing in the Grass (Is a Gas)," with its dig-related riff and refrain. Not the apogee of American music, I grant.

According the OED online, this sense of "dig" arose in English (in print, at least) around 1935:

1935 Hot News Sept. 20/2 If you listen enough, and dig him enough, you will realise that that..riff is the high-spot of the record.
1941 Life 15 Dec. 89 Dig me? 1943 M. SHULMAN Barefoot Boy with Cheek 90 Awful fine slush pump, I mean awful fine. You ought to dig that. 1944 C. CALLOWAY Hepsters Dict., Dig v.{em}(1) Meet. (2) Look, see. (3) Comprehend, understand.

Notice that Cab Calloway is featured in an early citation. This is almost purely guesswork, but my familiarity with African American origins of some American slang and of "hepster," "hipster," and jazz-related slang induces me to hypothesize that this use "dig" may have sprang from African American colloquial speech, which heavily influenced Beat slang.

With regard to the more literal use of dig, I can report that I did a lot of digging in my youth and young adulthood, much of it related to putting in water-lines, building foundations for houses, putting in fence-posts, establishing drain-fields for septic tanks, and even looking for gold. Since then I've done a lot of digging in gardens.

Strange as it may sound, my father loved to dig. (He became a professional hard-rock gold-miner at age 17, at the Empire Mine in Grass Valley California; this meant digging.) To him it was an art. Probably the best tip I can give you from the art of digging according to him is to let the pick (or pry-bar) do the work. Never swing a pick as high or higher than your head; you really don't have to swing it at all. Work with it, and let its iron point do the work, not your forearms and back. If the pick is wearing you out, something is wrong--I mean besides the fact that there you are, using a pick.

Unfortunately, my experience digging, often alongside my father, may have ruined Seamus Heaney's famous "Digging" poem for me. In it, Heaney explicitly compares his writing ("digging" with a pen) to his father's digging in the ground. I think because I saw the comparison coming a mile away (when I first read the poem), I winced. Also, because digging is a form of labor and a skill unto itself, I'd be tempted to leave it alone and not associate it with the figurative digging of writing.

True, a pick and a pen both have a point, and so, therefore, does Heaney. But for some reason I wanted him to let writing be writing and digging be digging and not go for the comparison. I'm in an extremely tiny minority with this response, however, so I think it's mostly about me and not about Heaney's poem, which many people adore.

In any event, and in honor of those old hipsters and long-ago Beats, and in homage to writers I happen to like, here's a list-poem memo (for some reason, the idea of writing a Beat "memo" amused me, probably more than it should have):

Beat-Memo Homage

I dig Basho, Dickinson, Housman,
Lagerkvist, and Gogol. I dig Kafka, Calvino,
Borges, Brautigan. Can you dig Langston
Hughes,W.C. Williams, and Sam Johnson? I can.
Oh, man. I dig Swenson (May), Valenzuela (Luisa),
Sayers, Stout, and Conan Doyle. I dig
Shapiro, Stafford, Bukowski, and Jarrell.
Leonard Cohen and Jay McPherson: I dig
them, too. Of course I dig some of those
Beats, except they're ones who were
on the fringes of Beatly fringehood: Snyder,
Baraka, Everson, Levertov. Sure,
I dig Ginsburg and Kerouac, just
not as much as other people do. I dig Camus,
who didn't believe, and Nouwen, who did.
I dig Suzuki (Zen Mind...), St. Denis
(Cloud of...), and Spinoza. Jeffers, I
dig--Mr. Happy-Go-Lucky. I dig Rumi
an Goethke: what's not to dig? I dig
O'Connor (Frank and Flannery both).
I dig Horace and the Beowulf cat,
Tolstoy, Cervantes. Let's leave it at that.

Copyright 2009 Hans Ostrom

Time to Move

When Daddy started growing antlers
out of his temples,
we decided it was time
to move away from Chemical County.

After they were arrested
and held without bail or a
hearing in a converted warehouse,
one of them had the idea
of reciting Eisenhower's
speech about the military-
industrial complex. They did.
They recited it. And then
they were moved to another
facility. Facility.

After she attempted to burn
all my clothes and kept
leaving cat-carcasses
on my doorstep, I decided
it might be time
to make the move of
re-thinking our relationship.

She shouted as loud as she
could at the people, and they
obviously did not hear her,
so it was then that she knew
she had moved into
a ghost's existence. Which
was fine with her.

hans ostrom 2013

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

"Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow," by William Shakespeare

largely an embarrassing affair

i have found life to be largely
an embarrassing affair in which
one is supposed to know things
but doesn't know them yet or knows
things but isn't supposed to know
them yet and in both cases
is derided, checked, & otherwise
made to feel bad. then

there is the matter of failing
at things one never really
gave a shit about and failing
at things one cares terribly
about but could never quite
secure the proper
assistance with, or
an effective gesture of welcome.

then the body-stuff: too big,
too small, too thin, too thick,
not quite enough of this, not
enough like that. really it's
a kind of constant surveillance,
with the body and the physical
behavior stuff. right?

not complaining, just recording.
to err is human, but that's
not the point. it's the always
feeling off, bad, ill-fitting,
excessive, insufficient. those
feelings are human and
largely a source of embarrassment.
is the thing.

hans ostrom 2013

Saturday, November 16, 2013

why do people?

why do people like pickles?
why do they buy pickles, hey?
why do people use phones?
why do people make poetry?
why do people claim
they do have homes?
listen to the people.
they say, and they say, and
they say.the
people say!

why do people hate people?
why do people torture people?
why do people think people
ain't people? you'
got to be
think that.

maybe you have been an
Ain't People.
hey, maybe you know how
it feels.
for reals.
--feels to be seen
as less than nothing.
knows what it's like
to stand there,
wond-ring. wond-ring
why oh why,
why me?

Oh Lord Ah God
oh true and only one.
you are bigger than
the sun. Please will
you freight in
some answers
about this plight,
this fate, this one.

(oh, yes, this one.)

hans ostrom 2013

make them want

make them want
what they don't
need and sell it
to them; that's the
creed of the
Consumocracy, our
churn of items.

the version of
that thing you just
bought's out of date,
ill-equipped by
equipment specialists
(go figure), ill-de-

instead of an apology,
you'll get an advert,
I said an ADVERT,
which will tell you
to buy thatthing2.0

or the all-new

get it, have it,
use it, show it,
talk about it. stroke
it. yeah, pet that
prime commodity.

goods and services,
Little People. get the
goods, or the
system will not
work, and you don't
want the system
not to work, now
do you? i thought not.

i say unto you,
consume until doomsday--
which has its own brand.

hans ostrom 2013

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

It's Going To Be All Right?

People, including parents and friends,
like to say, "It's going to be all right,"
as if they knew. It's not a bad rhetorical
move--pretending you know when you don't.
Where would we be without such
rituals of speech?

"What goes around, comes around," people like
to say. Something about Karma, which
in the U.S. has become a girl's name. Something
about a belief in a force or entity
that controls the game--a pit-boss, say,
in Vegas: no, that's not quite right.

Or maybe it's the deep order of fractal chaos?
It has to be more than wishful thinking.
Doesn't it? It's going to be all right?

I said to a woman once, concerning a mutual
friend who'd been shafted by greasy academic
pigs in tweed, "What goes around, comes around."
(What I really meant was: they'll get theirs.)
She said, "No, it doesn't. Even if it comes around,
it's too goddamn late. These fuckers hurt her,
and they will get away with it."

True enough. Meaning: true. It's in fact the
lesson I took away from Hitler's reign, slavery,
Jim Crow, lynching, assassinations of MLK
and JFK, Black justice v. White justice,
the rise of worms in organization, U.S.-
sponsored coups, and on; and on and on:
they will get away with it.

Even if a dictator's hung,
the damage is already done.

I have said to people in trouble,
"It's going to be all right." It isn't
exactly a lie. It isn't the truth.
It's something we say. It's something
those without knowledge or power
feel as though they ought to say
just to keep the illusion of
an ongoing game alive.

These things we say to each other
that aren't exactly accurate
are nonetheless important
evidently. Tell me. Tell me,
stranger, tell me, friend; tell
me it's going to be all right.

hans ostrom 2013

Saturday, November 9, 2013

When the Tongue

Quarter to Five (A Zombie Poem)

(reposting one from 2009)
He works as a zombie from 9 to 5. He climbs
into a catatonic state and performs duties
as are assigned to him. He's under the spell
of employment. (It could be worse.) His
co-worker, Barton, said, "You scare me.
You look like the living dead." "Don't worry,"
he said, "I'm just behaving professionally. After
work I become vibrant and garrulous."

"But I don't get it," Barton said, "--what
job-title around here requires a person
to behave like a zombie?" "In my particular
case," said the man, "it's Chief Deputy for
Zombic Affairs." "And what is it exactly
you do?" asked Barton. "Barton," he said,
"you don't want to know." With his blank,
unnerving, but professionally appropriate
affect, he resumed his duties, for the clock
read only quarter to five.

hans ostrom 2009

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Garbanzo Opera

When I was six, garbanzo
beans felt like grainy
mud-pebbles to my mouth.
They tasted like a menacing

nothing. When I picked
them out of a salad
and marched them to the edge
of the plate, a parent's

order became inevitable:
"Finish them." Finishing them,
I gagged. They became
soft bullets of

esophageal assassination.
Now I love the little
bastards. I bathe them
in olive oil, bequeath

unto them garlic and pepper.
I now know their nom de
guerre: chick peas.
People may not

change, but their taste-
buds do, and I would pay
good money to go to
see a garbanzo opera.

hans ostrom 2013

Corporations Keep Rats

Corporations keep rats.
They keep them running.
The rats have some cash,
which they pay
the corporation for stuff
the corporations make.
Run there! Pay here!

The bait is technology.
Hey,rat, run after
the new eye-fone 18.3Z!
Pay cash first! Or
put it on a rat-card!

Imagine if the rats
turned around one day
and said, Rat Master,
we don't want any
more stuff right now.
We like the look
of your throat. That's
what we want. For free.

hans ostrom 2013

Thursday, October 24, 2013

How White Operates, Too Often

Way too often, White
goes out like a boomerang
toward what is right
and fair and just, only
to turn in reactionary air

and curve home, home,
to righteous hate, selective
outrage, a change of "heart,"
smug safety, reunion with
old friends, and other amenities
of the supremacists' field
from which
the boomerang
was launched.

Whether you're Black
or White or something else,
here's the thing: if
you truly "get it,"

then you will know
what "it" is, and
you'll nod at
the tautology
(for sure),

and so,
you know,

no doubt
I advise:

Beware of the White
radical, the White liberal,
the White conservative, and
it goes without saying
the White unapologetic bigot
spewing hate like a spigot.

Beware of them all. Be
unsurprised if they turn
back, if they curve a return to
"home," if, in fact,
they simply are not able.

For they are simple and White,
terrifyingly simple,
and they live
in a White-rewarding world,
and in most cases,
over the long haul,
they are not able.
They just aren't able.

hans ostrom 2013

Computer As Penis, Penis As Computer

You have unused icons on your penis.
Your penis is at risk: no firewall is turned on.
Your penis will restart in 30 seconds.

Would you like a full or partial scan
of your penis?

Your penis needs updating.
Would you like to upgrade to Penis 3.0?

The program, penis.dic has
encountered an error.

Please restart your penis.

Download the latest version of penis.dic.

Scan your penis for malware?

Scan has detected 8 problems with your penis.

Report as penis-spam?

You are forbidden from accessing this penis-page.

New penis.dic software is available.

Your penis hard-drive has crashed.

Report error to penis.dic?

Please tell penis.dic about this problem.

Would you like to change your penis password?

Log off penis?

hans ostrom 2013

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

"I Could Not Drink It," by Emily Dickinson

Triviality and Guilt

I celebrate your new coiffure
and worry about the hungry and the poor
at the same time. What
good does either trivial focus or guilt
do to affect big problems? I state
the question in a homely way.

I congratulate your hips
and fret over how White Americans
will never "get it"
(until they get it).
What good? Fuckin' white people.

I remark on a grey cat's
behavior and think of
our water on fire
our air carcinogenic
our land
either flooded
our politicians
with corporate money,
ah, what good?

I rest my teeth
on the image of a chrome fender
and I wonder
how many bombs "we"
have dropped, on what,
on whom, and why
(why not!)
since, say,
1941. What. Good?

hans ostrom 2013



hans ostrom 2013

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Steady As She Goes

Yes, it was in
that decade when
the first animated
was elected to
Congress. Financiers
bought the Air Force--
all part of privatization.

Regarding privacy,
citizens played online
and mugged for
the cameras they
knew about. Personal

letters were criminalized
for being inefficient
and vaguely subversive.
Through it all,

careers flourished.
The number of opinions
held remained steady.

hans ostrom 2013

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Sonnet for an Actress

(reposting one from way back)

You should have seen her yesterday.
She was more beautiful than our
Idea of beauty; and the way
She carried beauty in her hour

Unveiled achievement by a body
Unmatched by art. You should have seen
Her. Yes, our gaze was always ready.
What, though, did her beauty mean?

Did she embody what we thought?
Or did she teach us to desire?
And were we seeing what we sought,
Or held in spell by beauty’s choir?

Confused, nostalgic—what to say?
If you’d just seen her yesterday....

hans ostrom 2007/2013

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Failed Insults

Oh, you Kurdish book!

Don't give me that look, you fascinating nude portrait!

How can you live with yourself, hideous mildly tart apple pie?

Gesture of kindness, get out of town, hit the bricks.

Unpretentious professor, feeder of the hungry, calm presence, loyal friend:
you make me sick.

Working-class White male who isn't racist, I hope you're happy.

hans ostrom 2013

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

A Pre-Dating Conversation

She: Are you single?
He: Well, as you can see, I'm more like a double. But I always say I'm a party of one!
She: Are you interested in a commitment?
He: Not if it involves a state-operated institution. Hey, I've paid my debt to society.
She: What are your turn-ons?
He: Uh, women without clothes on and, uh, also women. Without clothes on.
She: Does anything about women threaten you?
He: If they have a gun, a knife, or a stupid ex-husband. Otherwise, no.
She: Where would you go on a first date?
He: Anywhere--any place where combat wasn't occurring.
She: What do you think about vegans?
He: I think they're so cute that I'd like to eat them. Just kidding.
She: Do you have a lot of baggage?
He: No. I have this real cool duffel bag and a really old Samsonite.
She: Do you like to communicate?
He: Yes, especially when I need something.
She: I'm not interested in playing games.
He: Me, neither. Especially board-games. And video-games. Soccer, too. I mean,
I could be talked into a game of ping-pong, but that's about it.
She: Are you romantic?
He: Fuck, yeah, I'm romantic. Roses, dinner, a new dress, jewelry. My thing
is: whatever it takes!
She: I don't think this is going to work out.
He: Yeah, I guess not. It's not you. It's me. How about a drink?

"The Sorrow of Love," by W.B. Yeats

Monday, October 14, 2013

"Towards Evening," by Hans Ostrom


The happeningness
of reality never pauses,
"is" being a fiction,
a slice of approximation
imagined to be there
between "was" and "will be."
No wonder wonder
sometimes tires me.

hans ostrom 2013

Saturday, October 12, 2013

"Penumbra," by Dante Gabriel Rosetti

Hello, Everything

Hey, Hello, Everything, I said,
trying to be polite.
Hi, Everything said, I'm busy.

Hey, Everything, I said,
I've worked in a pickle factory,
I've worked in a gravel plant,

I've pounded nails and washed pots
and taught rich kids and
dug trenches and written articles--

--Who cares? said Everything.
Everybody does something and there's not
much difference between

any of it. Oh, I said. Well,
how are things with you,
Everything? I'm always

changing, and I have to go,
and you're a loser and small,
said Everything. Bye.

hans ostrom 2013

"Storm Ending," by Jean Toomer

Monday, October 7, 2013

All Right, Now

Having successfully eluded
fame, he took
a long nap
and awoke refreshed.

hans ostrom 2013

The U.S. Congress, Observed

Have you been watching
these little legislative haters,
these law-mockers and logic-blockers
sent to the Hill (our Golgotha)
with cash stuffed up their pipes?

They've done no reading in history,
economics, philosophy, or science.
Their self-interest is artless, their
corruption as bald as a brass door knob.

It's a little like watching a person
with lousy reflexes drive a stock car
at Darlington or Daytona,
or some drunk college lad
pick a fight with a seasoned
body-guard. It can't end
well. Yes, of course,

after the wreckage, it will be we
who'll have to clean up
as best we can. Politics
now seems to have an endless
supply of punks, and
not the musical kind.

hans ostrom 2013

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Fall's Always Good for a Laugh

A large, allegedly evolved primate,

he passed through an exterior door

of his abode, intending to gather

a newspaper on the stoop (this

was in the last days of print-culture),

and he was caught in a spider’s web.

Webbing on his face, he looked

at the fat brown spider as it danced

like a portly Vaudevillian on its

filament, and he laughed.

hans ostrom 2013


I've misplaced my subject-position. It happens.
According to the post-modernist rulebook, which
is only virtual, my default positionality is therefore
one of befuddlement, which could be a ruse, except
a ruse seems so pre-modern, even atavistic. One
thing's certain: I'm not a mystic. Positionality
is such a tricky business. If you write or speak

the word, "positionality," then you've pretty much
positioned yourself into a pretentious corner, and
the commonly insensitive Anglo-Saxon ax will fall
on your multi-syllabic Deluxe Latinate Impressor,
which comes with its two-speed abstractionator.

Cut to: a meadow. My subject-position transport-
system, a hot-air balloon, lies sideways and un-
inflated, mere fabric amidst flax-stubble. This
is Not A Problem. This is Laugh Out Loud.

[re-posted from 2008]

hans ostrom 2013

Friday, October 4, 2013

Quit While You're Ahead

Many times in his life he had heard
the advice, "Know when to quit while
you're ahead." Well, hell, he thought
at last, I never get ahead. Sometimes
I catch up, but that's about it. Otherwise
I'm always behind. So I think I need
to learn to know when to quit
while I'm behind.

hans ostrom

Of Them and Of Hiram

While the others
majored in pre-law,
Hiram majored in post-law.

While they practiced
their interviewing skills,
he fell in love with women--

in particular and as a
concept. While the others
began good careers,

Hiram drove on dirt roads,
found some employment,
and wrote odd poetry.

While they took over a
political Party and insisted
on hating Black people,

Hiram read Black authors,
listened to blues, soul,
and funk, and was politically

powerless. They sold their
souls. He rented his out, but
never for very long.

They dined on the entrails
of the poor. He grew
his own vegetables.

hans ostrom 2013

Thursday, October 3, 2013


just ice
just is
in just
in jest
indigest onion
in dig est
in dig o
o blue o blue o

in jester
no justice
no jest is
no just is

no peace
know peace
know piece
no peace
no peas
no pleas

no, pleas
no place
no justice no place
just please
just pleas
just peace
just us

hans ostrom 2013


Race is mmmm.
Racism is.
Re: racism:

White, White, White
Why it, Why it, Why it
Wyatt burp

Wee, Wee, Wee
Wit, Wit, Wit
Nit, Nit, Nit
Not, Not, Not
Knot, Knot, Knot
Know, Know, Know

No, no, no, no, no
no racism no

hans ostrom 2013


What used to be Eisenhower's Party
is now a toxic,
radioactive brew
of John Birch, Joseph McCarthy,
Orville Faubus, Jessie Helms,
the enfeebled Ronald Reagan,
Birth of a Nation,
the Bush Crime family,
Ayn Rand (speed freak),
and the KKK. Lord?
Help us.

hans ostrom 2013

Wednesday, October 2, 2013


sex you all, mais oui?
sex, oo, ah, & tea
sex, you, quality
sexual equality

sex you wall it. ee!
sex you wallet tee
sex, you all
sex you all at ease

sex, sex, sex
you, you, you
all, all, all,
it, it, it,
y, y, y

sex ual it y
fits you to a T
oh yes yes laugh at me
i like to laugh you see
i like to laugh, Lucy
you laugh, too, you/me
without humor, we

have no sexuality
we must be loose
loose/loosey, oh

hans ostrom 2013

Monday, September 30, 2013


In two.
In, too.

Inn, too.
Inn. Two.
Into Inn.

I, too, in.
I to in.
Into me.
Into mate.

hans ostrom 2013

"Moonlight Night: Carmel," by Langston Hughes

Minor Intimidations

A tag on a blanket
tells me in writing
not to remove the tag.
Removal, it notes,
is a criminal act.
Another entry, I think,
for The Encyclopedia
of Minor Intimidations.

hans ostrom 2013

The Plot of the Universe

Plot, a human invention, a narrowing
we need, is something
the universe doesn't require.

For the universe
is thermodynamic
and never exactly
itself any time.

is infinitely, multi-
dimensionally episodic,
in all and no directions.

This is a little
story about the universe.
You tell one. It's
what we do.

hans ostrom 2013

"Fall Wind," by William Stafford

Friday, September 27, 2013

People Are Disappointed

When I say "October" I feel
compelled to say "again."
People are disappointed.

A military aircraft flies overhead
and makes great noise as I try to teach.
People are disappointed.

Today somebody said, "I saw a scorpion in
my house,": and her friend said, "That's impossible."
People are disappointed.

In Syria alone there are two million
refugees. And elsewhere refugees. Refugees.
People are disappointed.

Over the years, several times, I've said,
"I can't influence anything political."
People are disappointed.

Into the o's of October, I stuff
my acrid outrages, what a joke.
People are disappointed.

I tried to tell someone about jazz,and the
person said, "You mean like Light Jazz on FM?"
People are disappointed.

I think I've died a hundred times, and yet
I still look forward to death.
People are disappointed.

hans ostrom 2013

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

The Organoids

I enjoy how science hunts down philosophy
like a big cat on a plain:

the clever bastards now make
yes, that's right, brains
in vats, the old

Yes, of course, maybe
it's a case of brains in vats
they're making brains in vats;
and of

other brains in vats imagining
they're reading and writing
about same. Alas, not likely.
Occam's Razor slices a leak
in vats of that sort.

I do hope there is a neo-funk-
band out there now named
"The Organoids." That,

by the way, is something my
brain thought, some meager
morsel a big cat might snack on.

hans ostrom 2013

Monday, September 23, 2013

In the Chambers of the Sounds

Hearing the off-off-beat rhythms,
sonic schisms. Hear-
ing the syncopations out of
diasporic nations: ah, the
daughters sweat when they dance
and they laugh into lances of light. Ah,

the world, too much, in its trembling
under the weight and the hate
of its machineries: beat-
en down. One mind's

a mental gleanery, a picking up
of bits from a mowed-down
psychic scenery. Hear-

ing sounds made of sounds recorded
sounds effected now, an overlooping
digi-lapping mix-re-mixification,
queen and princess and
good king syntheslaus
at the feast of even beatsintune.

the on beat, off-again
ch- ch- ch-echoing
in the chambered
air-displaced materials,
endless musi-chilled imp-

hans ostrom 2013

"The Name of It is 'Autumn,'" by Emily Dickinson

"Blue Monday," by Langston Hughes

Friday, September 20, 2013

Animal Authors

Ernest Hummingbird
Emily Cricketson
J.D. Salamander
Charles Chickens
Jane Mothsten
Leo Toadstoy
Herman Moleville
William Bobcat Williams
Otter Conan Doyle
Flea S. Eliot
Percy Fish Shelley
William Rattler Yeats
William Snakespeare
Margaret Catwood
Allen Ginsbug
Albert Camoose
Franz Calfka
Charles Bucrowski

hans ostrom 2013

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

The Sheriff Has Absconded

You touch the moon on water,
a century collapses into a train
& the engine's light shines
on tracks, which ladder up
from night into a blue dawn
buttered. And now unfixed

factories march across
a plain to kidnap fugitive
workers. You're at red
rim-rock's edge, watching
all of this--you,
the emperor of images,
brewer of creosote beer,
melter of topaz, escaped

hans ostrom 2013

Monday, September 16, 2013

All Are All Alone

All are all alone
in the cave of the cranium.

Data and, via language, guests
may enter. Only the one

lives there though, bent over
a fire, cool-napping or

listening to underground streams
and echoes of screams.

hans ostrom 2013

"The Fall," by Russell Edson

Friday, September 13, 2013

Self-Contradiction Blues

Self-Contradiction Blues

"I am an atheist who says his prayers"

--Karl Shapiro, The Bourgeois Poet

He's a hick who got
cosmopolized, a fierce
coward and a timid stalwart.
He's a shrewd fool, a
half-assed genius, and
a morbidly morose optimist.

He adores libraries
and hates the intelligentsia.
He considers himself
a feminist but would stare
at women's naked breasts
until the end of Time,
transfixed, forever adolescent.

He's a lost soul but a found
failure, lazy and obsessive,
driven and languorous.

An over-achiever who
never measured up. A
glad-handing recluse,
quick and dull, exuberant
and plodding, fanciful,
serious, frivolous. He's
nothing but exists.

hans ostrom 2013


She says,
I took the post because
I wanted to teach students
English. Well, all right,
I also needed to earn
a living. In the classroom,
there was boredom. And noise,
endless noise. Most of the students
were distracted by their poverty,
hunger, hormones, phones, talk,
music, and self-loathing.

Outside the classroom,
the corridor was always
crowded, with parents,
administrators, politicians,
consultants, pastors, priests,
rabbis, police, coaches,
pimps, pundits, and God.
The crowd pressed
against the door every day.

In other words, I never
had a chance; worse,
they never had a chance--
the students: you remember
them. She says,

Now I'm a clerk at a
building-supply company.
It's easier, and it pays
the bills, I admit. It
doesn't feel crucial to me,
though, like education
used to feel.

hans ostrom 2013

Thursday, September 12, 2013

America's Bible Challenge

I shit you not, Brethren,
a cable-network in the U.S.A.
has added a game-show
called "America's Bible Challenge"

The "host" (hear me, people)
is a smart man who became a
stand-up (hear me, people)
comedian with a hick-schtick.

Just before the break,
he says, "Our two teams
are backstage studying
for the Revelation Challenge!
There is twenty thousand dollars

You cannot make this shit up,
sisters and brothers. What
the fuck did Jesus Christ
and Moses, for example and
e.g., do to America that
America would make such
an unholy motherfucking
carnival (and I do apologize
for my language) out of

hans ostrom 2013

Jesus Reminder

And the Man said,
the name is Jesus Christ.
Jesus Christ.

Not Jesus Price
or Jesus Pri$e,
not Jesus Whites
or Jesus Right or
Jesus Lite.

Certainly not
Jesus Might or Jesus
Might-is-Right, and
no not Jesus Kike.

Nor Jesus Flight,
as in your wealth-gospel's
corporate jet. Nor
Jesus Blights. Okay?

Not Jesus Sites,
as in a real estate de-
velopment, or Jesus Sights,
as in the things you
aim your guns with.

And the people, they
got a little quiet.
And then they started
talking, too much, again.

hans ostrom

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

The Topic of Your Thighs

Your thighs are and are not
like warm, supple glass. They
make me think of seven golden
horses galloping across a field
of black grass; thus, I must

disrupt the senator's speech--
and instantly find myself
stopped, frisked, tazed,
Mirandized, Godoted, Kafkaed,
NSAed, SWATted, and entered

into the system.
Why, why
did I stray
the topic of your thighs?

hans ostrom 2013

Are Reviews Necessary?

I don't know: are reviews necessary?
I mean, of books and movies, and so on? I've written some.
Quite a few. I don't the genre. I was almost
always kind, beyond fair. But the
question is more general (who
cares about me?) Many

reviewers seem like little brave,
yapping dogs. They bark
at the stone-mason walking by
as they imagine they're guarding
the huge stone mansion behind
them (Art). They imagine the mansion.

Others are like dogs
that indiscriminately sniff
the boots of anybody
walking by. Everything
excites them. That's not so bad.

A lot of reviews and reviewers
are pleasant to read. Some
reviews save time--you get
the idea of a history book,
or one on science. That's
a service. Otherwise, I'm

just not sure: are
reviews necessary?

hans ostrom 2013

Monday, September 9, 2013

Those Weren't The Days

I found your aluminum parachute.
You weren't nearby, thank goodness.

I still have your wood carving
of a chainsaw. Cute.

(Using a tractor),I ran across
 a photo of you and me.

I don't miss you but I still talk
about you to people, mentioning

your hammer-toe and other
minor flaws. Ah, you and I,

back then. In fact, those
weren't the days, my friend.

hans ostrom 2013

Friday, September 6, 2013

What Should I Watch?

Wow, I can order, like a general,
movies on my TV! On Demand, with a
price. So: On Pay. That's
kind of cute. I see what
you did there. What should I watch?

How about the tenth sequel based
on a fucking comic book, with a short
actor dressed in latex
and a plot
as predictable
as a
and credits
as long as
the Bataan
Death March?

How about the 15th gangster movie
from the noted director who makes
gangster movies with short actors
who have New York accents and
play at being tough, with make-up
and all? Bada-Boom, Bada-Wadda-
Dada could you please just
stop talking, stop

How about a film in which Black
women actors play maids or whores?

Or another film with the wrinkled,
70-year-old actor whose eyes look
like charcoal piss-holes in the snow?
He will be paired with a woman
who has had her faced carved
by switch-blade Frankenstein
cosmetic surgeons in Beverly Hills.

Or another political thriller
in which a short man with a broad
female ass plays a rogue agent
who is American
who is American
who is American
who blows up shit
who glows up shit
and flows up shit and
who never grows up? Shit!

How about a goddamned puppet-movie?
Or a virtual puppet-movie, with
that digital puppet-crap they
invented? Yeah, a talking fucking
car, a virtual teddy bear, all of it
"voiced" by members of this
bizarre celebrity oligarchy
that invites world leaders
to parties in Malibu, pays
people to carry dogs no bigger
than postage stamp, and gets
high-colonic enemas in Costa Rica?

Oh, I know. A romantic comedy,
in which the actress, who is 45,
plays a flirty nerd who is,
I shit you not, supposed to be
less than 30. You know, one
of those romantic comedies
that isn't romantic or funny
but basically a set of still photos
paired with frozen jokes
and inept physical stunts?

Jesus Moses Sebastian Mohammed
Buddha Bogart, what ever
happened to timing?

Oh, wait. There's another movie
by that guy who is 108 years old
and jacks off to kiddy-porn
and lives in New York
and is important
and gets the financing
and gets the financing
and has a broker
and is afraid of anybody
not White
and is
and is
a genius
and is
and is
and is
and is
a genius? Have
you seen his
latest movie?
Oh, it's wonderful.
It's set in a famous city
that middle-class
millions. He
is a
genius. Have
you seen it? Oh,
he is wonderful. Oh,
I love

Yes, please, a movie
by the hick-genius
who made one good movie
and who is short
and talks tough
and now says "we"
when he means "I"
and is no doubt
and is no doubt
thought to be smart
in Hollywood.

Better yet, a movie
with one of the three
older Black male actors
who get work in Hollywood.
One has a voice but doesn't act.
One acts but doesn't have a voice.
The third acts and has a voice
but is just a bit too
talented to be safe.
"A Black man in Hollywood ..."
say those in the know. Inside

Imagine if people, seriously,
Occupied Hollywood. Imagine
progressive, suave poseurs
having to call the police
to have the police
beat up the people. Imagine,
that is, Hollywood
without the makeup,
no longer the last
institution that is

Imagine Hollywood
in its BMW,
in a mob. Cut!

Wow. I think I'll

hans ostrom 2013

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

I Like Missing

I like missing California. Do
you? I like California twilights,
blue. And perfume of the women,
swoosh, going by. And the going by,
the gone. I miss the gone,
the streetlights popping on,
Chevy Impalas as low-to-asphalt
as lizards. And I like

missing bitter smoke of burnt
alfalfa fields & also
valley oaks never seeming
to move, great clouds
of black-green. And I like
missing everything that's
wrong-careening and wrong,
excessive and wrong, about it,
about it all, the bursting
all of California, God
help us.

hans ostrom 2013

"The Name of It is 'Autumn,'" by Emily Dickinson

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Birch Trees, White Folks

I've come to expect
white folks who used to
behave like "liberals"
to bend Right at the slightest
urging of confusion,
the tiniest testing
of their privilege.

Like white birch trees,
they grow crooked
and drip sap. The scars
on their white bark
are black. These

become hieroglyphs
that tell of interminable
injustice, of an unrelenting
white illness.

hans ostrom (after the Trayvon Martin verdict) 2013

Monday, July 1, 2013

A Pigeon in Rome

A pigeon strutted
into a bar on the
Via Veneto. This was
not the first course

of a joke, although
when the pigeon spoke,
it said, "Yes, I know
my head goes forth
and back. I have feathers
not funds. Allow
me some crumbs."

Hans Ostrom 2013

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Taking A Break

I'm taking a break from the blog for a while.

I'll see you in the Funny Papers.

CM, you can take me off your route.

If You Judge Me

I saw her thinking and thought
she was thinking of them this:
If you judge me, do it silently.
Don't sentence me
to listening to the noise
of your opinions.

hans ostrom 2013

Monday, June 17, 2013

Two Important Activities

(based on found language, facebook)

In my retirement,
I do two important activities. First,
I always keep a close eye on my
stocks. Secondly,
we like to travel to new places.

hans ostrom, 2013

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Father's Day: "Bear Nearby"

My father (1920-1997) spent a good portion of his life hunting bears, observing them, cursing them (not really) for breaking down his apple trees and devouring the fruit, and so on.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

The Lost Poems

Sometimes I think
of all the great poems
lost to us through
one happenstance
or another. They
gleam like rare
stones lying on the
face of another
galaxy's moon.

hans ostrom 2013

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

"The Old Stoic," by Emily Brontë


In that city, small shops
formed hives of work and talk
and tradition. Birds whirled,
wheeled in flight, dove above
dusty trees at dusk. Voices
called, young and old. There
was the voice of the boy in
the alley calling for his friend,
"Ahhhhh-maaaad!" There were
the voices of the calls
to prayer. That city was a place

of tough vitality. Ferocity
and beauty shone in dark eyes.
Oh, yes, we recalled that
James Baldwin loved it here.
There was a seduction of breezes
after the sun went down. In that
city, acres of red-tiled
roof-tops accepted light and heat,
and people there accepted
their lives, their condition--
for the time being.

Hans Ostrom 2013

Monday, June 3, 2013

The Back-And-Forth

They forced him
to go shopping
but he got back
at them by having
all their memos
drained from
his consciousness.

hans ostrom 2013

Friday, May 31, 2013

Poetry Isn't War

Plath advised, "Write with blood." That's not
necessary unless you're imprisoned. Poetry's
not war. Writers like to give melodramatic
advice and even take it sometimes. That's
their problem. Write the best way you know
how. Ink--real and virtual--works just fine.
Don't kill yourself--because then you can't
write anything. Unless you're really oppressed,
don't force yourself to act as if you are.

They like to keep Plath's morbid celebrity
alive. They have their reasons, I guess.
I recoil from those. Read Plath's poems.
Many of them are very good. That is enough.
More of them would have been even better.
Life, life, life: poetry is life.

hans ostrom 2013


I have a Ph.D. in Foolish,
with specializations in
Impulsive and Awkward.

I earned a certificate in
Befuddled--and pursued
additional training in Perplexed.

"You're kind of a fuck-up,
aren't you?" I asked myself.
"Yes, yes I am," I replied,

"but you're no goddamned bargain."

hans ostrom 2013

In Pursuit of Happiness

Headquarters, be advised,
we are in pursuit of happiness.
Officer is down
on his knees, praying
for redemption. Alleged
miscreant has been advised
of his lights,
and is rising in a red sky.
Moses and Christ,
also Buddha and Allah,
we ask:
what has happened
to our species,
which achieves, achieves,
but that is all?
Headquarters, please
copy our call.
We are over. We are out.

hans ostrom 2013

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Re-Posting One for Memorial Day: "For Charles Epps"

For Charles Epps


What's left these 38 years after Charlie
died? The same as what was left a minute
after he died: an avalanche of absence.
I've visited the grave. I always go alone. I
let morbidity, a pettiness, arise, think
of what's under ground, including
the baseball uniform in which they put
his body. It's easy to move past small,
awful thoughts. What's left to resolve?

Everything. He ought to be alive. God
knows that as well as I. My knowledge
stops there. I don't know why he died,
only how, when, where, and with whom--
Sonny Ellis. Their death numbed,
scandalized, and scarred me, but so what?
I got to live at least 38 years more
than they. When I die, so will my grief,

and so it goes. Like an instinctive,
migratory mourner, I think of Charlie
at least four times a year and every May
and try to think of something more to say.

Copyright 2009 Hans Ostrom

Monday, May 20, 2013

"The Sky Is Low, The Clouds Are Mean," by Emily Dickinson

"Blue Monday," by Langston Hughes

We Are In the Waiting Room

The waiting room waits for us
to move through it. Magazines
collect like silt. We try to collect
each other's thoughts; fail;
return to our own. The waiting room

is quieter than most places
of worship. A door opens rudely.
The caller of names holds
a file, speaks two words brusquely.
One of us gets up. No one
says goodbye or good luck.

Those remaining settle too quickly
back into waiting. We've become
like birds on a roost at dusk.

The world cannot end as long as
there are waiting rooms
because that would be too dramatic.

Hans Ostrom 2013

Sunday, May 19, 2013

"Choking It Back"

Today I happened to be
watching a cat choke back
the urge to vomit
a hair-ball just
as I was thinking of
the sheer number of Americans
who, first, consider themselves
White and, second, simply
cannot abide even the thought
of a Black man as President.
I want to say to them,
Vomit up that hatred, first,
and, second, read a
goddamned history book.

hans ostrom 2013

"The Man He Killed," by Thomas Hardy

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Gary Snyder's Birthday Today

It is Gary Snyder's birthday today. My favorite books of poems by him is The Back Country. He was born in San Francisco in 1930.

Here is a brief selection from his nonfiction book, The Practice of the Wild:

Monday, May 6, 2013

They Don't Want to Hear From You

Lou, they don’t want
to hear from you. They
don’t want to see
anything you do.

You don’t belong, Lou.
So how long you going
to keep asking to be
considered? Lou,

you were born behind
and never caught up.
Stubborn’s not a talent
they’re looking for.

If they had wanted you,
they would have sent
for you by now, Lou. They
would have sent for you.

Hans Ostrom

"Consumocracy Blues" recorded

Friday, May 3, 2013

Consumocracy Blues

They're spending what they don't have
on stuff that they don't need.
Yeah, they're spending what they don't have
on things they do not need.
Maybe they need to think about
living by a simpler creed.

hans ostrom 2013

Monday, April 29, 2013

The Planet Is Hooked

The fish are getting high
on our pharmaceuticals. Perch
take anti-anxiety meds
prescribed by our sewage
and runoff & they swim
like hell. We like to share.
Gulls smoke our clouds of
junk, bears chew through plastic,
and clams can't find the calcium
anymore because of our acid trips.
The planet's on our street now.
We'll sell it anything.

hans ostrom 2013

Friday, April 26, 2013

Old Man, I'm Talking to You

Old man, I'm talking to you. I am you.
I didn't used to be. I used to fly past
on a train. You'd be sitting on a bench
at the station--gray eyes, gray sweater,
a blur of inert age. And I? Well, I

was all tendon-taught, unfraught, lithe,
and smug with youth. Uncouth. I was
on my way to . . . to here, as
it happened. And it's happened.

I'm situated at the station now, too,
talking to you, old man. Here
comes a train.

hans ostrom, 2013

Official American Poetry

Official American Poetry is a corporation like
any other. It has executive officers, middle-
managers, salespeople, controllers, and share-
holders. It operates major retail outlets

such as anthologies, presses, workshops,
and MFA programs. There are Academies
and Institutes, with canons on the parapets
and reviewers pouring hot grease on the mob.

Official American Poetry (OAP) frequently
says, "We are unamused by most american
poetry." When OAP notes an Interesting
Development, then OAP buys it up to

maintain market control. It bought up
Dickinson and Whitman, Plath and Sexton,
the Beats and LANGUAGE. There is insider-
trading, lobbying, and influence-peddling.

There's the awkward American imitation
of royalty (Pound crowning Eliot). OAP
is a tower of glass and steel. If you want
to try to try to trade independence for

recognition, go for it. Good luck.
Otherwise, just keep walking. And
writing. That's what Walt and Emily would do.
Bukowski and Bob Kaufman, too,

and this is not to mention,
and this is not to mention
all the poets alive, above and
under ground both at once.

hans ostrom 2013

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

What She Realized

She realized one day
that what she had produced
in her field was as good
and often better than
what the famous in her field
had produced. She knew
she'd never be famous.
She understood the machinery
that established hierarchy.
She knew that proclaiming
her work was as good and often
better was a losing ploy,
and she knew that complaining
was the sucker's payoff.
So she chose satisfaction.
According to hard criteria,
what she had done was good
and even excellent. Let it
be that, she thought,
and let the rest go.

hans ostrom, 2013

Bond of Union

(after M.C. Escher's Lithograph, "Bond of Union," 1956)

We first met in a vat of soup,
you and I. The bubbles entranced.
Then they turned into spongy spheres,
and the soup evaporated entirely.

More adventure: our insides--
brains and guts, bones and such--
departed. We became mere ribbons
of being, me with my sad goatee,

you with your lovely mouth
and luxuriant hair. We discovered
but one ribbon became us. So we
move cautiously now and try

not to attribute blame.

hans ostrom, 2013

From Inside a Renoir Painting

I am speaking to you from one
of Renoir's paintings. My voice
shatters softly like light.
I'm perspiring terribly
beneath these tight clothes,
these goddamned buttons and bows.

I'm drunk in that annoying way--
you know: wine gone sour
in the belly, head heavy, ambition
for a sexy evening vanished.
Only a nap says to me, "Hey."
I'm glad you like the painting.

hans ostrom, 2013

Monday, April 15, 2013

Thanks: A Poem

Life happened to me,
fortunately. It could
not have happened
to me, quite possibly,
although there would
have been no I to have
missed the opportunity,
no sensor of vacuity.

Occasionally, one asks
why, or what have I done,
or what was I supposed
to do. No clue. I'm
nothing more than just
another you perceived or
not by other I's and yous,
we's and theys. Thanks are
a kind of praise.

hans ostrom, 2013

The Great Age of Fingernail Polish

Citizens, we've entered
the great age of fingernail polish.
I should be writing about things
less trivial. Apologies.
But I've been out among women
whose digital surfaces have been
enameled with all the colors
that have escaped the spectra.
And I could look at women's
hands forever. And women's hands
are not trivial.

hans ostrom, 2013

Sunday, April 14, 2013

The Brain's Oven

The old woman
who slid a pan of cookies
into my brain's oven
never returned.
The cookies have turned
into black dots that float
across my vision.
I reek of burnt dough.

I lie on my side like a
buffalo who's been reading
Hegel on the parched
plain of Kansas for
example. Invisible merchants

empty microscopic vats
of hot slime on my neck,
my forehead. A thin woman
with cold fingers practices
scales on my spine,
and a chorus of angelic rats
prevents me from nodding off.

I raise one hand
as if to conduct
their concert. And I
pass out. I am a loser,
I am a loser, hallelujah
and amen.

2013 hans ostrom

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Financial Advice

"Mr. Debit, we advise you to put part
of yourself in stocks and part in bonds.
These punishments should occur in the
Town Square, as penance for your miserable
money-managing skills, and as an example
to all. Unfortunately, your folio seems
never to have left port. It's taking on water
and barnacles. Our projections indicate

you'll be able to retire uncomfortably
when all the mountains run into the sea.
By then, the National Economy
shall have melted, leaving a residue
of prosperity. In those far-off days,

travel by burro, but don't go near
the fortresses of the mega-rich
and super-celebrated. From bastions,
their minions will train designer-weapons
on you. You must understand that from
the wealthy's point of view, few
things drive down property-values
more than semi-retired, Quixotic
geezers sitting atop humble beasts.

Currently, your liquid assets fit
into a shot-glass and may be
downed in one gulp. Among
your liabilities is you. Please
try harder to be a credit to
yourself. Crawl low. Pray high,
and, incidentally, fuck you."

copyright 2013 hans ostrom

Homage to Jorge Luis Borges

In a long neglected room on an upper floor of Carolina Rediviva Library in Uppsala, Sweden, on the third of March,1967, Roberto de la Costa, in search of documents describing the medical treatment of wounded Swedish soldiers at the Battle of Poltava, discovered his own last will and testament. Accompanying material alleged the will to have been dictated by him, on his deathbed, to one Maria Vibrato.

Although the sound of this name
brought Roberto De la Costa pleasure, he had not known the name
before encountering it that day in the musty room full of documents. He learned from the will that he was to accumulate a not inconsiderable
estate but to dispose of it in ways with which, in March 1967, he
did not entirely agree. Reading to the end of the will, de la Costa learned that it had been witnessed by his now deceased mother, Gloria
Martinez Sierra de la Costa.

hans ostrom 2013

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Paul Robeson's birthday

Today is the birthday of Paul Robeson, anstonishingly talented athlete (4 sports at Rutgers, professional football), actor (Broadway and Hollywood), singer (operatic voice), attorney, and civil-rights leader. A poem about him by Gwendolyn Brooks:

Monday, April 8, 2013

The WSJ Is Unamused by Bowdoin College

The Wall Street Journal (April 6, 2013) has offered yet another critique of “liberal” colleges and their interest in diversity, among other things. Believe it or not, the complicated tale hinges on a golf-outing that the president of Bowdoin College experienced with “philanthropist and investor Thomas Klingenstein.”

During the outing, Klingenstein apparently told Mills, “I would never support Bowdoin—you are a ridiculous liberal school that brings all the wrong students to campus for all the wrong reasons” [and you have] “misplaced and misguided diversity efforts.” This is Mills’ version. Klingenstein later weighed in: “I explained my disapproval of ‘diversity’ as it generally has been implemented on college campuses: too much celebration of racial and ethnic difference,” coupled with “not enough celebration of our common American identity.” What that common American identity might be, he apparently did not say.

Klingenstein had also funded a study of Bowdoin by the National Association of Scholars. He apparently got what he paid for as the study discovered, at least according to the WSJ, that “[t]he school’s ideological pillars would likely be familiar to anyone who has paid attention to American higher education lately. There’s the obsession with race, class, gender and sexuality as the essential forces of history and markers of political identity. There’s the dedication to ‘sustainability,’ or saving the planet from its imminent destruction by the forces of capitalism. And there are the paeans to ‘global citizenship, or loving all countries except one’s own.”

What a lovely rhetorical moment has unfurled here. First, note the scene and the actors: A white male president of an exclusive college has his back-swing interrupted by a wealthy man who doesn’t like newfangled ideas. Hilarious. Nobody knows the trouble these two have seen. What next–a double-bogey on the 18th? One hopes the round of golf occurred at an exclusive country club because Klingenstein apparently complained that the school brings in “all the wrong students for all the wrong reasons.” Note that neither the WSJ nor the aggrieved wealthy golfer explain what makes “the wrong students” the wrong students. By the way, the online source Peterson’s [guide to colleges] says the student body at Bowdoin is 65% White or “Caucasian.”

Then, the WSJ plays the equivocation-game. The small liberal arts college has “ideological pillars.” It has courses that concern race, class, gender and sexuality; therefore, it is “obsessed” with these. Not that evidence matters, but if you look at the areas of study Bowdoin offers, you will find such subjects as math, physics, neuroscience, chemistry, biochemistry, music, philosophy, Classics, economics, art history, and a variety of “foreign” languages. Wow, what a radical bunch these Bowdoin folks must be!

The WSJ also claims that “[i]n the History Department, no course is devoted to American political, military, diplomatic or intellectual history—the only ones available are organized around some aspect of race, class, gender or sexuality.” But in the Spring term alone, you will find courses on “Colonial America and the Atlantic World, 1607–1763,” which surely includes military, diplomatic, and intellectual concerns, and a course on “Place in American History,” which “Investigates place as a set of physical and biological characteristics, as a product of the interaction between humans and the environment, and as a social and cultural construct. Also attends to the challenge of writing history with place as a central character” (Bowdoin online catalogue).

But the WSJ doesn’t like even a whiff of environmental issues: “There’s the dedication to ‘sustainability,’ or saving the planet from its imminent destruction by the forces of capitalism. And there are the paeans to ‘global citizenship,’ or loving all countries except one’s own.” Again with the equivocation. If you perceive the world to be highly connected—here we are, by the way, on the Internet—you don’t love your country. If you reasonably deduce that “we” are running out of water, facing the consequences of global warming, and encountering all sorts of problems with pollution, then of course you must be anti-capitalism—as opposed to being, you know, realistic and practical. And how dare Bowdoin offer opportunities for students to think about how to reverse the harm done to the planet.

The WSJ and the poor (read: wealthy), victimized Klingnstein have fielded an entire team of straw men in their arguments. Therefore, one must agree with them. Bowdoin should offer an old-fashioned course on rhetoric and invite them to take the course—online, in person, or on the golf course.

"Teacher," by Langston Hughes

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

The Soccer Goal

The soccer goal looks like a land net.
It is open to amphibious creatures
that may crawl, hop, or slither in.

This net won't keep its catch. It's
left that life behind, opposes
closure and captivity, embraces
emptiness. Heavy humans

routinely occupy this turf
to dramatize futility and make
a small ball mean too much.
They tire easily and depart.

Then comes the frog's time,
and moonlight, and dew.

hans ostrom 2013

Monday, April 1, 2013

She Spoke of Golf

The woman and the man
were watching some kind of screen
that projected images of men
playing golf. The woman said,
"You know, they always try to make
golf look interesting or exciting,
and it's just not." The man
thought this over. Then he said,
"You're right. It's really stupid.
It's a lot of grass, a lot of waiting,
and a little ball, and a lot of
mis-spent money, and, you know,
who really gives a shit?"
"Well," said the woman, "I know
I don't. Give a shit."

hans ostrom, 2013

"Are We Just April Fools?"

Steve McQueen Square

In Hollywood, Steve Mc-
Queen Square seems to be filled with
a petrol station.

hans ostrom

"An April Day," by Joseph Seamon Cotter, Jr.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Is All Beige

Is all beige, is the color
of the faces in the long-running
series, "Hollywood Exciting Series,"
with the ubiquitous directionless
lighting that is seen to come from
nowhere and everywhere: large
light bulbs, tin foil that reflects
sunlight as it is in L.A.

There is a script. There is acting.
There is a three-digit number
for the channel on which one may view
"Hollywood Exciting Series."

And we watch. Why? Well, what the fuck
else are we supposed to do,
after working in our jobs,
which are held by the suckers
in society, whereas the all-beiged
"Hollywood Exciting Series"
will make a profit for the ones
who make a profit by moving
their earlier profits into other
profit-making areas. Oh, my.

I'm not against anything.
What would be the fucking point?
I merely state. State haphazardly.
Sometimes I ask. "Are we irrevocably
fucked up?" It's not as though anyone
must answer, unless of course they're
saying something from a script,
and are being paid,
and are beige
because of the lighting
because of the because

hans ostrom 2013

"Salamander Confession"

Cable Television Sample 2013

i want to bring in some uni's,
fan them out, see what they find.

uh, wow?

yeah, I don't normally bring people in here

i collect, too

why did you blow me off?

that makes you honest

it's interesting that he
interesting that she
it's interesting
i find it fascinating

"he got that hand back,
and he didn't tell anybody"

talk to him, tell him you
made a mistake

"I will."

Previously on
Martin becomes
a professor

"God doesn't want.?

Go read, go read, go read
your Bible.

"She is in that other series."

Okay, that's enough.

Okay, good night.

Okay, what is your Thursday like?

hans ostrom 2013

The Woman in the Iron Sonnet

Official Correspondence

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Don't Look Now, But--

Don't look now but
Kevin Spacey is a bad actor and
Tom Hanks' accent in Forrest Gump
embarrassed. Clint Eastwood
is a cracker, and Jack
Nicholson is just another
Hollywood pig, the opposite
of counter-culture. Don't look now
but all the celebrity authors
are full of shit, completely
full of shit. Don't look now
but the U.S. Senate is a porch
on a Southern plantation
200 years ago. Don't look now but Obama
is to the right of Eisenhower and
it's too fucking late to counter-act
global warming. Don't look now but
the ACLU is impotent but correct.
Don't look now but the U.S.A.
would rather be white-supremacist
and wrong than fair and right.
Don't look now but most
of the Founding Fathers
owned slaves. Hear that:
owned slaves, who were
humans. Don't look now
but white supremacy guides
most American policies.
Don't look now but while
the gun-fetishists suck
their barrels until the barrels
shoot bullets, oh, oh,
the gub-ment
takes away the real shit,
such as money, such as rights.
Don't look now but "we"
add 10 million people per
year--which is like a Los
Angeles, which is too much
for the planet to bear.
Consider how much water
10 million people drink
and how much shit 10 million people
shit. Don't look now but
the U.S.A bombs whomever
the fuck they want--thanks
to your tax dollerz.
Don't look now but cynical realism
looks like idealism,
and your pessimism
can't keep up.
Don't look now. Don't look.

hans ostrom 2013

"Piazza Piece," by John Crowe Ransom

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

"Eight O'Clock," by A.E. Housman

I'm Guessing All

I'm guessing all
we can know for sure
is that when the
time comes, all
will be different
from what we had
expected, predicted.
Yes, it will be
different from
what we had imagined
when we get there,
when we get to the time,
when time comes
to get us.

Hans Ostrom 2013

Friday, March 8, 2013

A Fabulous Free Source for Learning Linear Algebra

College textbooks have become notoriously, outrageously expensive, and publishers often play a game of bringing out new editions that have relatively little new material but just enough new material that a student can't really get by with an older, much less expensive, used copy.

Well, if you're taking or teaching linear algebra or are otherwise interested in the subject, there are some great free sources for you, thanks to my colleague at the University of Puget Sound, Rob Beezer, Professor Mathematics. Rob and I share an interest in the possibilities of online publishing, print-on-demand, and so on--he from the math world, I from the poetry and fiction and teaching creative writing worlds.

So check out Rob's site:

The first paragraph you'll see there is . . .

A First Course in Linear Algebra is an introductory textbook designed for university sophomores and juniors. Typically such a student will have taken calculus, but this is not a prerequisite. The book begins with systems of linear equations, then covers matrix algebra, before taking up finite-dimensional vector spaces in full generality. The final chapter covers matrix representations of linear transformations, through diagonalization, change of basis and Jordan canonical form. Along the way, determinants and eigenvalues get fair time. There is a comprehensive online edition and PDF versions are available to download for printing or on-screen viewing. Physical copies may be purchased from the print-on-demand service at

So, if you want a "hard" copy you MAY buy one, but you don't have to. You may download a pdf or read the book online. And here the address for the online version:

And here is a link to "Knowls," which enhances your browsing experience for such math-related things.

Sadly, although Rob and I share an interest in the Creative Commons, free or near-free textbooks, print-on-demand, and so on, linear algebra to me looks mainly like some mighty pretty hieroglyphics. I did well in Algebra I in high school. Like Wordsworth, I also really dug geometry. Then things started to fuzzy with Algebra II, and I finally got lost in the wilderness of trigonometry.

But if you've forged on ahead and are exploring linear algebra, check out Rob's fabulous free and excellent textbook material, which includes not just answers to the problems but examples of how one gets to the right answer.

"Critic," by Hans Ostrom


The old woman who slid the pan
of cookies into my brain's oven
never came back. The cookies
turned into black dots that float
across my vision. I reek of burnt
dough. I lie on my side like a

buffalo who's reading Hegel
on a parched Kansas plain.
Invisible merchants empty
microscopic vats of hot slime
on my neck, my forehead.
A thin woman with cold fingers
practices scales on my spine.

A chorus of angelic rats
prevents me from nodding off.
I raise on hand as if
to conduct their performance,
and I pass out.

hans ostrom 2013

Thursday, March 7, 2013

My Diary Went on Strike

My diary went on strike.
It said, "Damn, your life is dull.
I'm not letting my pages work for you
until something changes."

"So you're a union organizer now?"
I asked. My diary said, "Hey, I have
to protect my people, my pages."

I said, "Okay. I'll make it more
interesting. Even if I have to lie."

"That's fine," my diary said.

"Even if I make up shit?" I said.

"Of course," said my diary. "I'm
a labor-guy, not a tyrant."

hans ostrom 2013

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

An American Political Reformation

No, there isn't any revolution coming. For
the FBI will have infiltrated it before it
starts. A reformation (go figure) will be
more revolutionary. Here's the deal:

White working-class people will have to stop
taking Right Wing bait like dumb catfish.
Friends, the Black president isn't coming after
your guns. The real problem is that he and
every other president is willing to let
the system come after your wages, your cash,
your house. Shake hands with Black folks,
White folks. Shake hands with each other.
You';re not each other's enemy, you dig?

Neither Party gives a shit about you.

To repeat: Neither Party gives a shit about you.

To go Sixties for a moment: get your shit
together. Fuck with their heads. What if
neither Party could count on your support
unless it did something serious
about your economic well being? That
is a very simple question.

Stop letting these people pimp your
fears. Ask them how they will make your
life--your life--not the life of your guns
or your prejudices, better. Friends,
get your shit together, fuck with their
heads, and change the rules.

hans ostrom, 2013

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

"After the Winter," by Claude McKay

Wealth-Distribution in the U.S.: Video

Here is a link to a brief video about how wealth is distributed (who has what) in the U.S. If you think you might want to watch, you might first do two things: guess what the distribution is. That is, what % of the wealth is owned by the top 20 %? What % by the bottom 20%? And so on. Then sketch out what your preferable distribution might be. Of course, your view might be "let the chips fall where they may." But it's possible that you think that the graph-line should be a little smoother because (for example) local economies depend on people having enough cash to buy sandwiches, tools, cars, and so on. At any rate, here's the address: