About Red Tales

Here's an evolving electronic collection of short prose pieces, with a poem contributed occasionally. Brevity guides. Although sometimes a piece will run to 900 words, most pieces are much shorter. Here one may find erotica, flash fiction, brief observations, and modest improvisations. Another rule is that each piece must have something to do with"red"; at least the word has to appear in each piece functionally. . . . All pieces are numbered and titled, so there's a de facto table of contents running down the rail below, under "Labels" (scroll down a bit). Browse for titles that look interesting, if you like. Thank you for stopping by. Look for some red today, tonight.

"Flaming June," by Frederick Lord Leighton

"Flaming June," by Frederick Lord Leighton

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

254. The Sound of Hammers

The sound of two or more hammers slamming nails into lumber: I recall this; cabins going up in the woods near our place. The arhythmic syncopation fascinated me, and sometimes the hammers would seem to meet and  join into a single pounding, which then fragmented soon.

In our house, listening, I waited for that gathering of hammering. I was too dreamy and cerebral: this isn't news. At age seven, I didn't think of the structures.  I didn't think of work, the faulty aspirations that inform a cabin-building, but I did imagine men in white canvas coveralls on ladders or roofs, and in back pockets, red bandanna handkerchiefs full of snot and sweat.

I'd drawn and pushed into that kind of work, hammering for wages in my teens and twenties.  That sort of work will knock the piss, the vinegar, the dreaminess out of you. And provide cash.

Hammering, I was of course oblivious to the arhythmic beats, the noise, and focused on sending a nail-head home, finishing that day's set of work, the shift.

hans ostrom 2016

Thursday, July 7, 2016

253. Oklahoma Encounter

The Black U.S. President, the man said, represented pure evil while the White Pope represented pure good. A red intervention came to mind as I listened dangerously. I couldn't quite see the mist that shrouded the man, but it was there, a product of mental illness, Whiteness (mental illness), racism, trauma, and failure. I was listening to him report from a terrible place he'd invented. A low branch from an oak sapling made me stoop comically, and I looked down at red dirt. Oklahoma City, Ralph Ellison's birthplace. A starting- and stopping-place for Charlie Christian's guitar. The look on my face had apparently provided a wordless, recoiling rebuke.  The man forced a trembling smile, and mumbled to cover his tracks as he moved away, as I moved away. 

Thursday, April 21, 2016

252. Looking at What Came Out of My Nose

On Twitter literary opiners complained
about poems concerning petty crises.
More attention to broad social emergencies
is wanted. Makes sense. You know how
it goes sometimes, though. The admonishment
has an unintended effect sometimes, even
on poets who sympathize.  I blew my nose
into a red handkerchief, which I opened.
I looked at the snot.  Tapioca. The shape
looked like an obese number 1, with sarif.
The topic of this poem is less than petty.

hans ostrom 2016

Monday, March 7, 2016

251. Secret Autobiography

The purpose of being here is to experience being here. An attribute of being here is to speculate about other purposes, some of which we may select as valid, but these are not consistently resilient. "Well, I am here," said the troubled man to himself. He looked around and saw things and people. A red design on a white bowl. A woman with long black hair. "This is here, and I'm in it," he said, with the follow-up thought that the sentences we speak to ourselves compose a secret autobiography, oblique but meticulously accurate.

hans ostrom 2016

250. The Art of Losing at Chess

I'm partial to the droll yet revolutionary third (and last?) book published by the mysterious Mervlov: Losing at Chest (first edition, hardcover, red binding). Listen to me: many ways of losing he describes are bold, others intricate, not a few comical, and at least two, absurd. There is, argued Mervlov, an art to losing when and how one chooses, and losing thusly provides a sustained excitement far more satisfying than that experienced when winning.

Of course, with this book Mervlov enraged the chess community, and he disappeared--last seen in a corner of a bar, trapped by a figure garbed in Catholic vestments and an exquisitely dressed, alluring Turkish woman, whose gaze is described in accounts I've read as "poised and menacing."

Never heard from or seen again, was Mervlov, a genius to many of us who've grown accomplished at losing the grand game.

hans ostrom 2016

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

249. Dirk Deliwogg

I am Dirk Deliwogg, consulting poet, visionary, crafter of opinions, digger of holes, raconteur, and something of a legend.

I kind of hate stories even though I tell them when the work calls for it. That's about all the work calls for. People want to tell things and I listen.  They want to hear things in return. Ritual sayings like "the weather's been really weird lately." They want short comforting or alarming tales. And so on.

Relaxing at home (I'm a slow drifter, an artful squatter) with a glass of red--not wine, just the color red--I like it when a woman who is there (or not there) speaks in word-collages, such as "teek notoriety web-savvy certain cream-based personal responsibility agenda mais oui lime allergy connubial etch scar vivid zephyr, actually." I reply, "Indeed. Well put!!

Anyway, I am really nobody living in nothing, which, although nothing, is saturated with texts, symbols, and momentary tyrants. Great to meet you!

hans ostrom 2016

Friday, December 11, 2015

248. Talking With Borges

I don't know where consciousness goes when someone dies. I can't assume that it goes anywhere or that it does anything but cease. I can believe it goes somewhere, but believing is different from knowing and assuming. All three though faulty are crucial to humans.

The single exception to all of this in my mind is Jorge Luis Borges. I know where his consciousness went: the Worldwide Web.  Borges invented the Web (web). Borges didn't invent it. Here we think of Schrödinger's infernal cat.

I know this (about Borges) because he is here talking to me--in Spanish, through a translator. (Recall that a writer of fantastical narratives must be deeply practical--hence the translator, even though my Spanish is adequate.)

Borges is dressed in suit (black) and tie. He holds his head up--not high; only a bit of lift, of loft. The overall effect suggests a statement: "I am not blind, no; it's just that I see everything now, as the web would see, if it had a central personality."

"The web is a library," the translator says. She's extraordinarily good looking, and her body in a silk dress (red)  stirs desire, if we are to be obvious. "A library," she continues, Borges looking up, delighted, as he listens to her take her turn. (We are in a courtyard of Baroness Ramona Ali Larsson's summer estate in Sweden.) "A library--nothing more, as if anything could be more than a library! The rooms are innumerable and each one different. The corridors divide and multiply like cells. The librarians are legion; the patrons, ubiquitous--like vapor."

The translator, Lucinda W., stops. Borges waits. He speaks. Lucinda W. smiles. I glance at her breasts, which beseech me to beg. I restrain my strong weakness for the sight of women's breasts. "You are lacivous," Lucinda W. says, adding, "and these words are from me. (Borges laughs.) This is from Borges."  She translates: "As grand as this library is--the grandest!--it is nonetheless so small that it can be contained in a short, obscure narrative--typewritten on an Olivetti, one senses, and lying on a desk in a remote cabin. The library, in turn, absorbs such a narrative, and all narratives.  The small becomes large (consider the universe), and large becomes small (consider a stellar black hole."

I consider a stellar black hole.  Borges leaves. Lucinda W. removes her dress, and a thousand angels perched on a wire strung between two nothings sing Hallelujah. 

Friday, November 27, 2015

247. The Duty

Her foot moved on the carpet, a swift brushing step. The big toe's nail gleamed, deep burgundy polish. I stared at the toenail as she spoke: "My first hike was near Ashville, North Carolina. They led us he lup a mountain, and we stopped, looked around. We walked back the same way, and I thought, 'Okay--that's it?'" I raised my eyes. She stood naked above, well most her body did. She held a glass of red wine. She smiled wisely after observing me admiring her pudendum, which is a strange word, by the way. Her eyes told me that knew precisely how many men in history had gazed upward like that at naked women. Modern cultural criticism has some things to say about "the male gaze," as you no doubt know. Except that sort of thing didn't seem to fit with what I was doing, not that I wish to evade responsibility. And no, it wasn't some sort of BDSM thing, which isn't my thing, but more power to them, or to half of them, I guess. No, as I stared up at her and admired the light on her body and her physical and psychic composure, and feeling her warmth in the warmth of the room, and seeming to melt into her abdomen, or whatever, the thing is it happens all at once, these sorts of moments; well, anyway, it seemed a necessary and sufficient activity, staring up at her, like an acolytes's duty. Soon I would be promoted above acolyte and join the admirable woman in embrace as an equal but of course not really, not really equal: it is what some men a born knowing about women--that women are more, and individual women are more in their individuated ways.