Wednesday, February 25, 2015


A blue owl, red sunflowers, and yellow horses:
such a scene may lift the spirit,
whatever the spirit is, whatever color.

A green road, a purple copse, and a black
bell tower: in such a context,
the spirit may become somber--

as brown becomes serious in a field of gray.

hans ostrom 2015

note: one of Christina Rossetti's children's verses refers to a blue owl and red sunflowers.

Friday, February 20, 2015

"Lawn Walker"

Yeah, I'm a lawn walker. That's right.
I walk on lawns across this land. I see
a lawn, I walk on it. Hell, yes,
people yell at me. Hey, what do you think
you're doing?
I don't say nothing.
Sometimes they move
toward me. I walk away. Sometimes I
run. 'Specially if they have a gun.
Although I mutter to myself,
you're defending this weedy square
of grass with a gun? You crazy?

Some of the lawns have done gone
brown. Like Colorado, California.
Drought City, here we come.

Some of them smell like poison.
Oklahoma. Texas. Fracked up lawns.
("Nobody said we weren't going to
get our hair mussed a little bit.")
Petro-Patriots ain't afraid to
give their lawns for their country.

What do you call freedom? Mowing
a lawn? Putting down the weed-kill,
moss-kill, bug-kill? Listening
for the hiss of your automatic
sprinkler-system? Well, I call
freedom walking on lawns.

Sometimes there's dog-shit there.
And I get blamed. Goes with
the territory. I lit out
for the lawns, baby, and here
I am. Could be Boston. Could
be Maui. Could be Sweden
or Chile. I'm global,
a card-carrying member
of the International Lawn
Walkers of the World (IL-WOW).

I'm a man who walks on lawns.
Go ahead and judge me. Call the cops.
Call the guy at the gate in
your gated "community." Call
down the helicopters, the
Landscape SWAT Team. Send in
the squad of riding lawn-mowers.
I ain't afraid of no John Deere.
I walk on lawns. I got no fear.

hans ostrom 2015

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

"Somber Hombre"

A somber hombre, Arturo
liked to listen to jazz
and drink lemonade after
a shift of welding ships,
his head behind the mask
all day, heat coming off
of steel. He liked the way

that jazz opened his mind
to night and let the starlight
fall down or seem to like fiery
bits of metal left over
from when the sky got welded.

Arturo found the music flexible
even when it was heavy,
and jazz wasn't made to be
anything more than what
it was, so it was free to be
a lot. Sometimes Arturo

listened so late to the vinyl,
he fell asleep on the Navy cot
he'd gotten from who knows where.

hans ostrom 2015

Monday, February 16, 2015

"Who Will Teach Us?

"Who taught you to hate yourself"
asked Malcolm X, 5 May 1962, L.A.

I for one little white boy
was taught by U.S. news-culture
(noose-culture) to be afraid of Malcolm X.

Lord, I could not muster up the fear.
Instead the face and words and name
entranced me at age eight. There
was the force, precision, and logic
of prophecy. Often I spoke
the magic words Malcolm X
and Willie Mays to the cool
hall of my mind.

Sure, maybe call it an early encounter
with charisma. But oh it has outlasted
the Kennedy charm, which seemed
like an expensive mechanism.

An imprint that remains from Malcolm X
and those times
is of a fiercely focused, dedicated
life--all the stuff of slough discarded.
He was a virtuoso of humanity.

We haven't learned yet,
especially us whites, how to take in,
accept, and struggle with such love,
such proper, unsentimental love.

For such love cuts through
the vicious, viscous lies
on which the flabby thing, Whiteness,

Who taught us never, never
to tolerate such truth?
Who taught us to fear such fearlessness,
and to hide ourselves from such seeking?
Who will teach us otherwise?

hans ostrom 2015

"Memory Unit"

In the Memory Unit, we speak
euphemistically. We
watch the very old and almost
mindless sit or lie like reptiles
that are waiting for the warmth
to come back. These wait
for the memory-sun
to unset itself.

Our uncle is among them here.
What are we supposed to say
to the past, which is absent?
What are we supposed to do
with our rage and embarrassment
before this scandal, this
crucifixion of identity?

We keep our visits short,
is what we do. For a while,
in our conveyance later, we
are as quiet as the Memory Unit.
Then someone speaks. We understand.
We speak back. We're understood.

hans ostrom 2015


Lieutenant, lieu
tenant, boss and not-
boss, muddle-management,
point of view, of order;

ranked demander,
charged like a battery,
in charge of a corner

in the structure:
what should I do?
asks the lieu;
but only later asks

how did I get me-self
into this broken fix
of too much and not enough

hans ostrom 2015

"Of Bronchitis"

When you cough, the bronchia
fire yellow or green mucous-bullets
into your mouth. It isn't disgusting.

It just is, when you're ill.  
When illness appears, you push the world
away. The world seems only

too glad to go, as it has no
particular attachment to you,
and illness is boring.

Your venue's now a bed with linens,
pillows, and blankets. You feel
lucky, weak, and sad.

On the walls hang strange pictures
no one else would want. This is good!
Coughing hurts. Sleep is irascible.

Affected by bronchitis, this
segment of time is your life now.
It is not without interesting

including what comes up from
lungs to visit your tongue.

hans ostrom 2015

Thursday, February 12, 2015

"Place in the Space"

He needed something to take him away
From the place in the space called
His head. Not escape; no, a shift
Into a perspective that stuff didn’t
Stick to too much. Such as scenes
Of injustice (the same kinds
Of the people that were treated
As not-people are treated as not-
People today; if you, he thought,
Read, see, and listen, you will
Know this and so not deny it
I can't deny it, it sticks
Yes, stick to too much,
Does the stuff, such as
By-now distilled toxic memories
Of personal shame and failure, failure
And shame and stupidities
And permanent confusions
But also excessively incisive
Insights (such as this whole
Fucking operation is a scam
and I must pretend it isn't
Listlessness full of dread,
Dreadful despair result
From the sticking-to of stuff,
So now yes he need something to
Take him away from the place
In the space called who he is.

hans ostrom 2015

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

"Worry Wins"

I have worried about the sky,
which doesn't exist.
I've worried about rain,
which is none of my business.

I was trained to worry,
to give a shit,
as the American colloquialism goes.

Not that giving a shit
ever made me effective
at righting wrongs or lefting
righties or injecting decency
into the smug corpse called power.

Now I'm exhausted. Worry
has done won. I care in theory.
In practice I don't give a shit.
Thus I have energy to watch
the twitter-feed, and that's
about it.

It isn't relaxation. Nor
is it fatalism, for I don't
have the juice even to philosophize,
either. That's some sad shit.
Even despair is asking
too much from me. It takes
effort to give up hope.

I'm an old dog lying on a porch
in summer. I can smell
developing events, and my
neck-hairs might rise. But
I can't-won't get up
when that raccoon waddles
past the place, chirping.

Well, maybe tomorrow. Yeah,
maybe tomorrow I'll write a
letter to the editor. And send
it? Wow. Join a march? Lend my
body to a protest, scrape
together some solidarity?
Tell a racist to fuck off!
Today I can't seem to get off
my ass. The situation is
troubling. I'm worried.

hans ostrom 2015

"Beautiful in Spring"

We'll all be beautiful in Spring
in spite of how they've hated
and tried to make us hate.
Sunlight will turn green leaves
gold. It will round out our beauty,
too. The fantastic browns
of earth will enrich our context.

We'll talk superbly with one another,
sometimes without talking.
Yes, it's true: beauty's not
for the few. It's standard issue.
Let the dirty drifts and banks
of comparison melt away
to feed the flowers
we'll see and smell
no matter where we are in Spring,
when we're beautiful.

hans ostrom 2015

Saturday, February 7, 2015

"Fragment," by Jessie Redmon Fauset

"They Are Up"

Strong and bold,
confident and true,
sprouts of tulip
and daffodil
poke through the well-
drained soil. One

thinks of espionage,
a listening post
gathering intelligence
from weather and sending
it to handlers underground.

Some of the sprouts
look like a green cat's
ears. They hear the jazz
of warmth. Others seem
the shape of the tip
of the trowel used
by some hulking mammal
in clothes, planting
sadly in October,
preparing the floral
resurrection grave.

hans ostrom

Friday, February 6, 2015

"Hiram Speaks of the Alleged Ghost"

Yes, I can confirm there was a ghost in that house.
We knew so the first week. Pop called
Uncle Zipp and Aunt Peach over, they
located it, grabbed it, threw it
in a steel box, and released it into the woods
a hundred miles away. Mother said,

"I'm not cleaning up after a spirit."
Pop: ". . . the rude sonofabitch."
Sally, my sister, the budding scientist,
said, "There's no such thing as a ghost,"
but didn't object to the transport
of nothing to elsewhere.

If anyone had asked me, and they didn't,
I would have said, "What's wrong with a
ghost? Let's see how it goes."
I still like to hike in those woods.

hans ostrom 2015

Thursday, February 5, 2015

"I Was Sent a Link"

She texted me. I was texted.
Text Ed. Textual Education.
The text said she
was going to send me
a link.

Three days later, a single
sausage showed up in the mail.
I didn't eat it, although
it smelled okay for having
been on the road for three days.

I realized for the first time
that a sausage
could be mistaken
for a cat turd.
Some epiphanies are unpleasant.

It was a little meat-log,
an analog link, I think.

I sent her a thank-you-note.
Actually it was a "thank-you-
I-think-for-the-link" note.

hans ostrom 2015

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

"The News from Inside"

Inside me, still,
lurks the baby who could walk
but chose not to
(wanting instead to stand up,
hands grasping the rail
of what they called a play-pen)
and to watch. It seems

I was born wary
and passively resistant.
And that's who I stayed.
In the 17th month, I walked
because, having watched them,
I noted that they
seemed to want me to walk.

Inside me, I don't
contain multitudes,
and Walt Whitman can
go fuck himself. Inside me
there's the DNA of a woman
living in Africa
160,000 years ago:
it's inside you, too.

And then inside there there's
a few people who worked like dogs
but not as hard as slaves. Maybe
a failed preacher, certainly
a Skid Row drunk, and possibly
the funniest patient in what
they called a mental ward.

Inside me, I think it's
population: 12. Or so.
But no apostles. In there,

an old non-descript tree
finally gives up, accepts
a lightning-smash, explodes,
and falls. Deer, squirrels,
owls, a cougar, a bear,
and maybe some hiker with
a bandana tied around
dirty hair mark
the arboreal collapse,
but, god damn it,
there's never a Zen monk
around when you need one.
And Walt Whitman
can go fuck himself.

Inside me, there's
a startling, a chronic
mild terror--maybe because
at month 15 or so,
I learned from informed
intuition that very little
in this life-thing makes sense.

hans ostrom 2015

"Literary Criticism"

Today we shall define literary criticism
as the art of constructing a weak
but elaborate foundation
to support a simple but heavy opinion.

Sooner or later, that
which seemed new, brave, and rigorous
will collapse under the weight
of the opinion and

because of the weakness.
The opinion shall remain,
functioning mostly
as a grave-marker,

for--just over there!--
shall have arisen
an impressive new structure
to which the flocks are flocking.

hans ostrom 2015

"The Pascaline"

Have you seen the Pascaline?
Nor have I. It must have been fine.
It was a calculator from
the 17th century, built
by the legendary Blaise Pascal,
who even with a friend (Fermat)
also certainly found a math
to figure the odds of a roll
of the die. Later,

he invented Pascal's Wager,
a thought-gamble in which
you must choose to bet (get
this) on whether God exists.
Is the smart money
on yea or nay?

Pascal's Pensées persist.

Black dots on white cubes
tumble in my untidy mind.
I really hate Las Vegas,
the true ghastly capital
of the USA, and I really
would like to say I've
seen a Pascaline. But I can't
say that I have.

hans ostrom 2015