Wednesday, September 30, 2015

That's Right, Me & Keats

Beauty is false, and truth
can be ugly. That's some
of what we know but only
a little of what we need
to know. Keats's formulation

is beautifully circular.
Like the urn, real or
imagined, it's neither true
nor false. It just is, so
we like seeing. That's

right, John, we still like
looking at that ode.

hans ostrom 2015

Monday, September 28, 2015

Nobody Beats Tacoma

Here's how it works: Beginning as North 27th Street,
North 21st Street just gets its confidence up
when North I Street slugs it and takes over,
only to be vaporized by South Yakima Avenue,
which morphs into something called Thomson.
The streets of Tacoma are so mean they're
mean to each other. Nobody beats Tacoma. Nobody.

Seattle has forever misread the meaning of Point
Defiance. It's not a park or a peninsula,
or a place to play dress-up on your bike.
It is a destined middle finger pointed
vaguely north. Put a penny
on the railroad track down by the port,
and you might well summon Guy Fawkes,
Richard Brautigan, a Chinese laborer,
or a skeptical Puyallup woman, pre-contact.
Whoever it is will take your penny
and invest it in a cloud-cone
hovering above Rainier like the saucers
Kenneth Arnold saw. About the time

you think you have Tacoma solved,
you find yourself on a suspension-bridge,
with a dog, and the bridge starts
writhing like a boa constrictor. Then
it flaps and twists, snapping itself
free from blueprints, taking a dive
like a punch-drunk stevedore
trying to earn a buck at a smoker
in 1931. The dog lives. If you tell

the tattooed woman at the drive-in
that you ordered everything on your
burger, she will tell you, without
animus, "That is everything."
Nobody beats Tacoma. You have
to understand: Tacoma is more
than a grit city that keeps its
bourgeoisie on a leash like a pit bull.
Tacoma is a sense of humor.

Once you get that, it may take decades,
you'll understand everything. I
mean, really, after embedding
yourself in a group of eccentrics
at the Parkway, the Acme, or
the Goldfish Redux, you'll see
the folly in naming streets
and other ambitions. You'll realize
you are Nobody, the only person
ever to beat Tacoma. Good night.

2015 hans ostrom

Party of One

I walk around the city. I'm a one-person
parade. Wave to onlookers, hold to the route.
Nobody knows I'm being honored. That's okay.
I prefer it that way. I stroll proudly,
give thumbs up to stray cats, seagulls,
and insects. After it's over, I
head home. There's only so much
adulation this hero can take.

hans ostrom 2015

Running Late

Time-travel will not be impossible yesterday.
Tomorrow will purvey proper questions
about problems we shall have used-to ignore.

Time offers an infinitude of views
through which to perceive matter,
which has no purpose.

I'm leaving here to go there to buy
coffee and bread: these eleven words
and the universe predate me. I'm running late.

hans ostrom 2015

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Murder Mystery

A certain curtain. An uncertain merchant.
Add a dead body. Subtract a dead body.
Multiply details of an atmosphere. Divide
clues. Some must be concrete, others
ethereal, and some as sodden as
milk-soaked cereal. Why

does the solver solve? That's the most
important motive. Who allowed
the murderer to become what the murderer
is? Indict them. Please

remember we are talking about language.
In a book, nobody really ever gets killed.
That's one of the great virtues of literature.

hans ostrom 2013


Twilight: sky brighter than landscape,
which backs slowly into darkness.
Crows fly home, high for them. They
become wrinkled, animated black lines.

So much is wrong out there--
the city, the nation, the world.
One feels ashamed, obligated, compelled,
and weary. This evening I give in

greedily to privilege, sit outside with
headphones on, listening to Ellington
indigos, "Solitude," "Prelude to a Kiss,"
"Mood Indigo," a cover of "Autumn Leaves."

In my heaven, Duke is musical director.
September air, influenced by Puget Sound,
mixes with dimming light sublimely. Yes,
I said "sublimely." Insufferable.

I want for nothing except more commitment
to change some bad things.
How disgusting to write about oneself
at a time like this.

hans ostrom 2015

Tuesday, September 15, 2015


Floriffic blossoms, heavy as toads,
bend green stems like blue notes. This
isn't paradise, only a shabby garden
beside a weary cocktail lounge on
some island somewhere. We're here
to feign the forgetting
of mainland failures, which
we blame on youth and ambition:
we have a point. These blossoms
are not cognizant of criticism
and other forms of judgery,
and that is why we like them.

hans ostrom 2015

Saturday, September 12, 2015


It's obvious the authorities
ought to be reported
to some other authorities.

hans ostrom 2015

Friday, September 11, 2015

Death to Super-Heroes

Even people over the age of 10 now
seem enthralled with "super-heroes."
I don't take this as a good sign
about our culture. I'm the guy
walking the wrong way as a stupefied
crowd staggers toward me on its way
to a movie house that's playing
"Elbow Man" or "Spandex Woman"
or whatever this week's
piece of silly junk is. I know:

I'm not supposed to "get it."
I'm demographically challenged.

Unless "Ant Man" falls
into the conical trap
of Ant Lion and gets
pulled under the dirt,
I'm not interested.

My mother and I agreed
that puppets are stupid,
and I put "super-heroes"
in that category.

Sometimes she asked new
acquaintances, "Do you like puppets?"
It's a hell of an exploratory
question when you think about it.
It isn't a question.

hans ostrom 2015

The Purge

Yeah, they brought in a tactical team,
a euphemism for heavily armed thugs.
Then said tacti-thugs swept the whole
sector, clearing out anything
they deemed lyrical. They rounded up
short poems by the thousands, arrested
anyone who wrote anything accused
of being quiet. (All poems on the page
are silent until spoken to.)

They roughed up numerous solitary
scribblers caught jotting down
juicy phrases, pithy paradoxes,
and notes on introspective matter.
Rhymes were stripped and mocked.
You can imagine who took over
after the purge. Too many poets
have a weakness for fascism, it's true.

hans ostrom 2015

Admiration Isn't Enough

(Charleston Church Massacre, 2015)

The screen shows an interview with two Black women
who survived. One lost a son
in the massacre: "I watched him take his last
breath." The other had been ready to die; the killer
"let" her live so she could "tell the story."

The story isn't his. The story's about
an ethnic group that's suffered beyond
comprehension--and had to comprehend. That
the suffering doesn't stop is White Americans'
fault and a nation's mortal wound. Nothing
will be right until White people own up

all the way. All the way, without
deflecting, without explaining away.
I'm tired of admiring
Black people for their courage and dignity
because admiration's passive and useless.

There's such a thing as too much suffering,
by a person, by a people. There's such
a thing as moral failure--of a person,
of White Americans.

hans ostrom 2015

Monday, September 7, 2015

Old Notes

The old woman looked at the image in the
mirror and thought, "My hair is a corpse."
Lately she's regarded her memories
as notes about a forgotten novel.

hans ostrom 2015