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, December 29, 2010

151. Painted Rooms

In the green room, you wait to go on.
In the white room, nurses tend to you.
In the yellow room, you're meant to think bright thoughts.
In the brown room, someone's strumming on strings, reminiscing.
In the gray room, there is crime or storage or both.
In the blue room, you feel sad doom.
In the pink room, pink always makes a point.
An orange room makes for one bright joint.
In the black room, darkness is a friend.
A purple room is always gladly too much.
A red room's a fine place to get it on.
A tan and tawny room wakes up at dawn.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

150. Treasure-Map

Darling, yes, of course I admire the necklace, with a delicate ruby, that I gave you, but my eyes drift to that tender hollow between throat and chest-bone, then to the color of your skin--and to lines suggested by your collar-bones.  Then up my gaze goes to your face, a smiling face, which now becomes a slightly suspicious visage.  There's everything to admire there.

And then of course your hair, which now I kiss and sniff--your suspicions verified: I've lust not jewelry on my mind.

It's not as if the necklace is irrelevant, oh no. It's just that it's the starting point on the treasure-map, the map and treasure both being you.

Friday, December 17, 2010

148. Futility Falls

In the town of Futility Falls, the river dried up, withdrawing the falls. The Council tried to shorten the town's name to Futility, but citizens objected. Tradition.

At the high school, sports teams are called The Philosophers. The mascot's meant to look like Descartes but bears more resemblance to a Hollywood pirate.

Over at the Nice Try Motel, you may rent any vacant room except Kate's Room, which is vacant. A nationally known embezzler, Kate stayed in Futility Falls one night while on the lam. She promised to come back and pay to have artificial falls installed. Townspeople still send her letters in prison. Her room, which features red vertical striped wallpaper--a kind of vivid prefiguring of cell-life--has become a shrine of sorts. It's hard to say what it memorializes besides a spirited woman who cared enough and took the time to promise too much while trying vainly to flee authorities. 

Anyway, Kate's tale resonates in Futility Falls.

147. Season of the Horny Goat

In practice, seasons get all mixed up: Sprummer, Wautumn, Fring, Sfall. For weather's a day-to-day thing, and now climate seems iffy, tipsy, and turvey.

If it should be hot, my dear, take off all your clothes and bathe in sunshine and my gaze. Thank you!

If it should be cold, dress warmly, go out, come back in, take off all your clothes, drink hot chocolate or rum (which I shall have prepared), then roll around nude with me in front of the fire, light of red coals flickering on your thighs.Splendid!

Yes, it's true--I note your sigh--there is one constant season--the season of the horny goat, such as I.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

145. Red Seas and Biting Fleas

Red seas and biting fleas. Asthma-wheeze, with four consonances clogging up the passageway from A to a.

Alaska freeze--it does please certain animals.. Red salmon eggs, smooth women's legs.

A search for meaning, a red cedar leaning.

A sizzling mist, from a grimy grill, a red-brown moth on a window sill.

Futile worries for the world, shining red hair, curled.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

143. Tasting Women

Sometimes I must stay away from my friend Hiram, for his mind not only runs in a sexual rut, so to speak--not unusual, that--but it also runs to the bizarre, the outlandish, the silly.
Just the other day he said, "You know, to me a woman-tasting makes much more sense than a wine-tasting."
I sighed. Against my judgment, I said, "Go on. Explain."
"Oh, let's say twelve naked women lie down on beds in a large room, and a taster briefly explores their vaginas with, in my case, his tongue and mouth. You'd rinse your mouth between tastings. You'd note your findings on a card."
"What is wrong with you?" I asked.
"What do you mean, as if I didn't know?" he replied. "What's wrong with me, according to you, is that I'm Hiram, one enthralled and obsessed by women, by the female form, as expressed by individual women-people."
"'Women-people'?"
"Women."
"Hiram, you'd have to hire them. Sex workers. Do you want to be going down on sex workers? Or were you thinking of asking for volunteers among your acquaintances?"
"The latter," he said--in a mumble. "Now I see the flaws. The logistics are impossible. Ah, but what if? What if! Each woman with her own particular taste. I am sucking, licking, and fondling the pudendum of each. Some shaved, some not--perhaps one of them pierced on the labia. I am--I'd give each one a red rose!?
"Very thoughtful of you. I suspect they might want more."
"Indeed," he said, missing my point. "And I'd want to give it to them--sucking toes, licking thighs--kisses, nibbles. Burying my head in there, but gently, giving my all. I'd feel obligated to satisfy each one."
"Hiram, try thinking normal thoughts."
"Only right before I go to sleep, my normative friend. The normative numbs me; it is of our zomboid culture."
"Women aren't bottles of wine."
"I know that, you sententious bastard!" Hiram was animated, to say close to the least. He drew attention from other patrons at the bar. "That's the point--to taste women, a woman, not wine. To taste! I feel as if I can taste them now!"
"Keep it down, fellas," the bartender said--not his first time having to admonish us.
I bought Hiram a glass of red wine, pinot noir, and left a tip whose size was appropriate for our having been admonished.
And here I am, thinking Hiram's non-normative thoughts, imagining myself as the taster. The taster.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

142. The Unfortunate Episode of Hiram's Sunburned . . .

My friend Hiram was in a storytelling mood again the other day. He doesn't so much reminisce as re-conjure--mostly episodes, alas, involving romance, desire, and sex. How much does he make up? Who knows? I ought to know, as I'm his friend, but I don't. I do know Hiram is mostly guileless. His recent tale . . .

They rented a house, my friend Hiram and this woman with whom he was enthralled. Rented it for a week. North of San Francisco, I gather--where the coastline is ragged and rugged: cliffs, battered trees, windblown slopes of scrub-grass, misshapen trees clinging to rock, mist and fog in the morning but hot sunlight, in summer, in the afternoon: and therein lies part of the tale.

It was a big house, and, in Hiram's direct words, "She and I set as one of our tasks to fuck in every room. For example, she got on top of me, but facing away, in the--"

"I get the picture," I said. Did I really need to know which room?

Hiram allowed as how there were acres between the houses in this odd seaside community, which was called something like Sand Ranch. Privacy abounded, at any rate. So he decided to sun-bathe nude. "Once I was out there, in the afternoon, and she just walked right out of the house naked and sat on my face. Good times!"

"Is that right?" I said.

"Well, of course it's right. Why would I make up such an episode?"

"To impress me?"

"I don't--"

"I know, I know: you don't respect me enough to try to impress me. You've used that line. As you continue to regale me with these tales."

"Anyway," he said, plowing on, "after she sat on my face--ah! I recall the sight of her gleaming stomach above me, her breasts, her face wild with delight!"

"Anyway," I said, "after . . . ?"

"I fell asleep, of course, and she went inside to do--something. Cook? I forget. So, yes, I fell asleep--and sunburned my cock something fierce. It was almost as red as a boiled lobster, and I'm not kidding. It hurt. Later it peeled. And the rest of the time there, she kept calling it, 'Red rooster, red rooster.'"

"I see." I did see. The imagery was vivid.

"But I'm telling you, that was the only flaw in the week in that large house. We did it in every room and outside. We fucked so much that--"

"I get the picture," I said.

141. Red Arts of Desire

Sonnet: Red Arts of Desire

It's true. I do desire you. I want
to borrow from your library all parts
Of you; the whole of you is what I hunt.
But more than that, I also seek red arts
By which you have bewitched me. I am yours.
Cliche? Of course. Desire like this is mad.
It tries to walk through glass and see through doors.
But this condition I prefer to Sad.
What should I do? Well, all I can, I guess.
I am not clever, so I'll be direct.
This business of desire's a wretched mess
Unless, until, desires intersect.
Ah, well. You know precisely how I feel.
In prayer and surrender I do kneel.


copyright 2010 Hans Ostrom

Sunday, November 14, 2010

140. 26 Things That Will Never Go Out of Style

argyle
baking
cunnilingus
doors
empathy
fellatio
generosity
hints
intercourse
jeans
knowledge
love
music
nonsense
oxygen
play
questions
red
soup
touch
undergarments
vegetables
wonder
xo
yams
zinc


Make your own list of 26!

139. She Was Just Out of the Bath

Not long out of the bath, she wore a robe. She sat back in their favorite chair, expansive and plush, and he sat on the floor, painting her toenails deep red.

She talked, then he talked, and they laughed. Sometimes she'd hold up the glass of white wine and look through it at him, just to see what the image might be. She imagined him swimming in a golden sea.

He finished painting her toes, and while they dried, he played a bit of jazz on the piano. Then he talked, and she talked, and they laughed.

Now they both held up glasses of white wine and looked through them at each others. She pronounced the red toenails dry.

He stirred, and moved from where he was sitting to the floor in front of her. From his knees, he leaned up and kissed her. They kissed. She opened her robe.

Then he returned to the bright red toes and kissed them, and, kissing at intervals traveled slowly from toes up the legs to the thighs, then to the belly, the breasts, back to the belly, down to the thighs, inside the thighs and now to the cherished place, and she opened her legs more and lay back and day-dreamed she was floating on a golden sea, and now she slid slowly and fully into expansive pleasure; it felt wonderful; she raised her head briefly and looked at the top of his head, and then she looked past his head to her knees and caught a glimpse of her freshly painted, her red-painted toes, and after a while, a long, languid while, she came, and she came, and she came.

138. Triolet for Going Down

I like it when I'm going down on you,
invited to that lovely place of yours.
I stay to do what I can pleasurably do.
I like it when I'm going down on you.
The colors there are various and true,
from reds to pinks to darks--intricate doors.
I like it when I'm going down on you,
invited to that lovely place of yours.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

137. Manufacture Me, Baby

Manufacture me, Baby,
according to your own designs.
Manufacture me, Baby--
make me yours along the lines
you have in mind.

Mold and fashion me
in the factory
of your lustful will.
What a thrill to get
produced by you.

Industrialize me
in your plant.
Run me through
an assembly line.
Baby, you are fine.

Paint me red
and box me up;
send me direct
to your front door.

Make me part
of your new
product line.

Manufacture me, Baby.
you know what my design is for.
I'll be your item and your tool,
a cool invention of your own.
Ah, bring me home.

Manufacture me, Baby.
I'll no, not ever,
leave you alone.

136. Hiram Muses Priapically

Hiram found himself moved to muse on his phallus. He, too, thought the subject tedious, and yet there he was, musing on it.

Hiram's cock had led him on many adventures, or rather had served as one symbol for and supporting character in calamities, quests, comedies, ribaldries, carnivals, and waltzes of desire.

As it happens, Hiram's cock was thick. It's real name was penis. It was thick and, when hard, even thicker, as you might deduce, what with the diverted blood.

When it was hard, it curved--to the left. it was a thick Leftist cock. If he'd had an opportunity, Hiram explained to me one day, he'd have chosen one that didn't curve, but this cock had served well and, he believed, others well, too. Through most of his life, it had been a dutiful, over-eager cock, too ready for adventure, in Hiram's experience.

When it was hard, it often turned nearly red, at least at the head, a sign of shameless embarrassment, of almost porcelain rigidity and smoothness. In very recent days, however, his cock had seemed to shake off its lassitude and distortion. He'd been waking up at 4:00 a.m. with an erection. He liked to grab the cock, a big fistful. The cock then grew harder as if to defy Hiram.

Hiram said things to his cock at these times, he explained to me (rather in too much detail) one day. He said things to it like, "What's going on with you?"

But the cock had never liked to converse, even as some women had addressed it directly or obliquely over the years.

Hiram said to me, "I was in bed, and I thought, 'Here I am in bed with a hard cock in my hand. It's a thick cock that curves to the left. It's the same cock I've always had, and it's not retired yet. A thick cock that curves to the left is such a specific, irrefutable existential fact--not an identity, per se, but also not something to refuse to acknowledge.'"

That was the first time I'd heard Hiram say "existential."

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

135. Possibility on the Mountain

Friend, there has to be
a possibility on that mountain.
It could be any color--gold
or red, tan or black, maybe
white or blue. We could seek
it--hike and hunt. Or let it
be and see if it comes down.
I've sought, and I've waited,
and the results from both
seem the same. So it's your
decision, friend, as we stare
at the mountain, its intricate
patterns of light and shadow
and our blending here and there
of what we see and what we wish
to be. The concept, "today,"
assures us the way a snapshot
distracts us from considering
the abyss into which past
flowed. Before we do anything,
friend, let's eat.

134. Red-Headed Stepchild

A magazine:

http://redheadedmag.com/poetry/

Sunday, November 7, 2010

133. Tennis Love

So we’re here again in a space made
Tensely playful by a net, a droll
Boundary we agree to allow. We improvise
Taut games of give and take, parry and thrust, must
And maybe, please and thank you.

Pleasurable strokes generate
Heat and light sweat. We take turns serving,
And accepting service. Stay tied at deuce indefinitely.
Add in, add out, a soft fuzzy texture to certain
Important features. We utter oaths.
Make passes to open court. Your defeat of me
Feels better than victory, so when we meet

At the net, a French kiss during which pink
Tongues and red desire play doubles ensues.
Continues. We’re hot after the match, so
Hot, my dear lovely opponent, my partner,
My line-judge and lascivious coach.

132. The Space Between Your Legs

In this space between the margins,
I put words that might be called
erotica, a quad, a wad of
syllables. The words concern
the space between your legs.

My preference
isn’t to fill the space between
the margins with words but to meet
the space between your legs, face
to space. But here I am writing, as
poets must and do. And where
are you? . . . Its many shapes, vaginal
versions let us say: forever fascinating--
well, at least to me.

The space can be anything, or seem. Then
the rooms—so several, mysterious, and
secret. The aromatics and secretions,
the softness of enfolding, the slyness of
micro-zones, buttons, and sensors.
How can something so self-
contained contain so much, so many
intricacies? Never answer that.

Your thighs and knees, which
sometimes rise like sides of an ampitheatre
and seem to coax, to cheer, me on: I see them
peripherally. I see the subtly
rolling, soft terrain—-up there, plateau above
the space between your legs. Miles further on,
it seems, lay breasts and shoulders, your head
and hair, your face, an arm that lies paralell
to your body and one whose
forearm lies briefly now across your eyes, as you respond,

enjoy; while you, my empress, receive reports from the
space between your legs, which I’ve engaged, speaking
in tongue, bad pun, lapping, lipping, dipping. Mumbling
sweet somethings. The ending’s more than happy, and
it leads to other chapters of the night, which could
of course be day. Of course, of course these

words are nothing, nothing like it is, nothing like
the space and spaces, the exact full moments. The
measure of it all. Erotica’s
outside the spaces, lustfully and gustily making things
up about the subject, off and on the subject. Aha!
You’ve returned. Immediately you sense my elaborate
but obvious plot to get you back in bed, where recently
you decided to lay a red bed-spread.

Friday, September 24, 2010

129. "Cherry Ripe," by Robert Herrick

Reading and video of "Cherry Ripe," a short poem by Robert Herrick:


Cherry Ripe

128. Red Flag Over the Fort

I'm flying a red flag over my fort today.

The fort's what you might call imaginary.

The trouble is, for some people a red flag is something of a red flag. So I expect some people will come up and interrogate me: What does it stand for? Are you a Communist or a devil? Aren't you a patriot? Are you a nut? Would you like a punch on your nose?

I'm preparing some answers: It stands for red and for flagishness. I'm probably not a Communist, but please define "Communist," and then we'll be sure, the both of us. I'm definitely not a devil. My red flag's not a national flag because I never got my license to be a nation unto myself. I hear the preparation-course is awful. Even my fort's pretty weak in spite of being imaginary. Because of, some might say.

I'm what you might call a sane nut. Think hickory. I would not enjoy a punch on or even near my nose, and by "near" I mean anywhere on my body. Plus, you don't punch people when you are a guest in their imaginary fort. Please use your manners and good sense. The red flag not only represents red and flagishness, but it also represents manners and good sense.

I'm going to walk along the interior perimeter of my fort now and look up at the red flag every so often.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

127. Seeing Bukowski Read

When I saw and heard Bukowski read, late 1970s, I recognized him as a shy, frightened man similar to red-faced drunks I'd seen in bars, High Sierra. Life kicks the shit out of people, some of whom re-emerge in bars, mostly to drink quietly but occasionally to boast and insult; to observe astutely; and even to prophesy. Thus Bukowski.

If such men and women should bark or snap sometimes, or if a mist of rage should cloud their eyes momentarily, there's nothing to fear in most cases. It's only (only?) the result of pain.

Bukowski came close to draining a six-pack of bottled beer as he read for an hour or so. He tipped both the bottles and his head back, as if blowing a horn. His face was craggy, pocked, flushed, and interesting. It was Bukowski's face. It belonged to Bukowski. We liked what he read.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

126. He Ended Up There

Anyhow, I ended up here, which features red bricks, noble sentiments, and the kind of people in charge you'd expect.

There are bathrooms and trees.

Each year the ones in charge unveil a new sculpture representing how much better the place is supposed to be. The piece is always named, "The New Us."

Then most of those who ended up here begin a new round of rancid betrayals, acidic hatreds, and psychotic indulgences. It's quite something to try not to see.

Me, I go to my assigned rooms and tasks but spend most of the time--where else?--in my mind because anyhow I ended up here, I'm outnumbered, and I might as well get some work done.

Friday, August 6, 2010

125. Clear and Difficult

It's easy to be clear: "I want to borrow money from you." "No."

It's easy to be difficult: "Red endless Duncan salts Dante, oui, to the sea in ships: Zeitgeist, oh Babylon."

It's hard to be clear: So much depends upon "depends upon."

It's hard to be difficult: Il miglior fabro = I just wrote some Italian; what do you think about that? I could have written, "To my pal, Ezra, a damn fine writer," but too much St. Louis in that.

It's good to live and write in the groove into which you've moved and to shut out notions of clear and difficult and do neither for its own sake but instead wake to your own moods.

Friday, July 30, 2010

124. They Say Rust

They say rust never sleeps. It doesn't wake up, either. It's rust--red, orange, annoying. It's a residue, like lipstick on a collar or the trail a politician leaves.

I've tried to like those metal sculptures left outside to rust, but I can't. They look like negligence or surrender, and keep thinking of lubricating-oil. I always want to report the sculptures to the Rust Authorities, but I don't. I'm no snitch. I just look away.

But I admit it: I like the smell of rust, O.K.?

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

122. Song and Video: "Lady of the Dew"

A link to a Youtube video/music featuring Tim Lulofs performing "Lady of the Dew," music by Tim Lulofs, lyrics by Hans Ostrom:

"Lady of the Dew"

Thursday, July 1, 2010

121. Vivienne Is Disburbed

When Vivienne walked around the city that day, everything seemed in proportion. Clouds were large but spaced; the sun shone. Automobiles fit on the streets--no military-assault vehicles, no dirigibles on wheels. She saw one comparatively short person, but this person was walking with a companion her size, they held hands, and they appeared to be in love.

True, Vivienne walked past a massive blackberry patch, ridiculously immense and yet so casual about its assertion that it assumed the unobtrusive green mass one sometimes sees in paintings, a suggestion of forest. Moreover, just to the side of the patch stood a tall foxglove stalk in bloom. Its singularity served as a counterpoint to innumerable, disheveled, thorned vines. Its pink flowers looked like satin bells too soft to produced sound. A bumblebee climbed into one of these bells and disappeared.

Only when Vivienne neared her home again were things thrown off. She saw what seemed to be a butterfly walking on the ground, hauling its wings. Or was it some insect in a winged stage? Anyway the wings were black and red. They seemed built correctly for flight, but the creature struggled under them like an unfortunate actor or a laborer asked to carry a sheet of aluminum roofing on his shoulders. The background to this clumsiness was gray asphalt. Vivienne didn't pick up the creature.Vivienne walked on, disturbed.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

120. The Turkish Flag

The colors of the Turkish flag are simple--bright red, bright white--but have borne many legends of flag-origination. The Turkish flag, therefore, is clever, not the sort of flag to dismiss unthinkingly, no not at all.

The symbols of the Turkish flag are simple--a crescent, a star--but bear many meanings.

The crescent of white seems to escape Earth's red shadow as in the distance a tilted star pulsates its light. Or the crescent is a kind of open mouth ever about to taste a tumbling star, which--ah,no--never tumbles close enough.

The flag says nothing. It is a flag, and so it lets its colors and lines do the talking. The flag has something but says it tersely, "Keep it simple, people: two colors, two symbols." The flag is garrulous, saying many things at once, as the voices of a city do, as a breeze off the bright Bosphorus does.

The Turkish flag is not busy like the Union Jack or Old Glory. It tends to its business of being a flag efficiently. The flag knows what to do with light, and when the wind blows, it knows precisely how to wave.

I think I understand the Turkish a flag a little better now, having seen it flying from a standard near the Golden Horn.

Monday, May 10, 2010

119. Tomatoes #2

Tomatoes remain uncommitted to our identifications, taxonomies, and recipes.

They're the seed, the plant and--or--the fruit: or the vegetable? You see how it goes with them.

They're neither solely of the Eastern nor solely of the Western Hemispheres, my dears.

Vines, they pass for bushes and shrubs. Green, yellow, red: the inspiration for traffic lights.

Cold, they adapt to juice, Bloody Mary, and sliced, flaccid picnic lethargy.

Vegetarian, they don't mind dating hamburgers.

Hot, they seduce sauces and salsas, dance with peppers, get down to Earth with cornmeal.

Stare at a tomato plant long enough, and you will become the one gazed at, red spots dotting your vision as you swoon in sunlight.

Some tomatoes are as fat as sultans, others as tiny as earrings.

If you think you know tomatoes, you are ripe for beguiling. Ordinary and rare, hybrid and heirloom, determinate and indeterminate, tomatoes are cosmopolitan phantoms, rural rogues, night-singers, code-bearers, food, and faith.

You say tomato, I say tomato, and the tomato keeps mum on the subject of articulation.

Welcome, my friend, to the mysterious garden. Reach, reach for the red and the round.

Monday, April 26, 2010

118. Pimientos

Listen, I know this sounds absurd, but it's important to think about pimientos. To think . . .

That they can be sliced so small, like pieces of a sacred red flag. That they can become the red pupils of green eyeballs called olives and look at you from a large jar like a mad doctor's collection. That they appear by themselves, sliced and pickled, in very tiny jars with red lids; these slices and these jars say much about a hyper-differentiated culture.

That pimientos were give a name less beautiful than pimiento, and not a red name: Capsicum annuum, which is a chalky white name, according to my synesthesia.

That, unsliced, they add extravagantly to foodstuffs cooked. That, sliced and pickled into miniatures, they add almost nothing to prepared food but still are summoned by powerful recipes.

That they exist at all . . . bright red chili peppers!

In no way, some will argue, are pimientos crucial. And yet they are exalted. I for one exalt them. Did someone say there are too many pimientos? I say there are too few.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

117. Brick

A brick never set
into wall or walkway

seems all rectangular

for nothing, red out
of embarrassment or alarm:

Brick emergency! I need

to be part of something,
mortared into solidarity!


The isolated brick gives
the impression of being aware

of its situation, although
that is impossible.

What will happen?

Weather will get to it.
Or it will break. Anyway

it’ll return to soil, finish

the trip from clay to mold
to kiln to being brick to

having been brick to dirt.

116. Red-Winged Blackbird

A red-winged blackbird sat, sits, will sit briefly on the top of a cat-tail in a marsh. That dash of red, with yellow, astonished, astonishes, will astonish some observers, who never have nor do not now nor never will want the blackbird to fly off.

That the red dash, with yellow, should materialize on a black wing; that such common rarity should reveal itself in a marsh; that some observers lifted, lifted, will lift field-glasses to their eyes to magnify the dash: all of this is easily explained but never fully accounted for.

And the red-winged blackbird flew off, flies off, will fly off the flexible, tall, substantial reed.

Friday, April 2, 2010

115. Sunlight-Shapes

A gray cat probed an empty red-labeled can with its nose. The can slid on a wooden floor on which exotic shapes of sunlight lay, and from a radio, voices discussed contemporary Cambodian music and Pol Pot's hell, which was not hell but on this planet.

We sipped hot liquid from cups, read news of war and folly; read about a failed attempt to clean a poisoned bay, as well as a skater's choice not to perform a certain jump.

Sunlight on the floor migrated. We spoke of our exhaustion. We spoke of laundry. Elements of the day accumulated to make another day. We knew enough not to speak of the incoherence of accumulation. Thinking thoughts and performing tasks, we continued, and by then the cat had fallen asleep inside one of the sunlight-shapes.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

114. Purple

One story has purple coming first from mollusks, an oceanic ink distilled by soft-centered stone-creatures. Once in the hands of humans, purple became grand, staining garments of monarchs, aristocracy, and venerated holy ones.

It came to mean sorrow and penance, too, a mix of martyrs' red-and-blue.

Purple still bleeds into skies, is the color of some eyes according to other eyes. Its etymology owes a syllable or two to a confusion of r's and l's in English, a rippling of purpose on the surface of phonemes.

Look for the nearest purple stain, from grape or dye or something else. What do you think? What do you think of it, purple? Purple. Murmur purple; murmur it in your own language.

Monday, March 22, 2010

113. Book In Your Hands

The book in your hands contains only two pages. Its cover is thick, made of black-lacquered wood.

The image on the cover represents a gray key to a door of a house that no longer stands. You still own the key the cover represents.

On the back, the pattern of a quaint, worn carpet is represented.

You open the book. You look at page two, right side, first. There is a reproduced photograph of your face. Under the photograph appears the word, "You."

On page one, left side, is a color reproduction of a woman's face. It is severe, her face, but not disturbing. The hair, cut short, is a color called "red," but the hair is really a kind of orange. Some of it is brown.

The book was and remains a gift. You close it. You think, "That was not bad, not bad at all. Satisfying, even." It has given you a lot to think about.

Friday, March 12, 2010

112. The Now and the Then

It's the 21st century, and much that was is gone, and much is new.

This floor's made of marble. Mornings, stone is cold, including marble, any century. Bare feet on stone get cold. A mind therefore wants to move the feet it knows best off stone.

. . .You come back into the room--it is a kitchen--wearing faded red slippers. They are simple, a bit of cloth, a bit of hide. It's the 21st century, and slippers are still made, and hides are still taken and tanned.

You fill a container with water, look reflexively through a window to check for anything not right.

Stone floor, cold feet, water, wariness: aspects of the primitive, the civilized, the now and then then.


Copyright 2010 Hans Ostrom

Thursday, March 4, 2010

111. Charlotte's Walk

Charlotte walked on a mood-weird beach, taking it all in: sea-suds on her toes, salt-air in her nose, sounds of surf and engines--echoes, yes, and splash.

Charlotte held her sandals in one hand, touched her hair with the other, felt thin red fabric on her skin; and the breeze.

Charlotte wasn't happy, nor was she not-happy. She was. She felt herself to be. She sensed she was and had a self--and was walking by the sea.

And the breeze.

Charlotte felt almost at ease.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

110. Planting Radishes

The first time I planted radish seeds, I was seven years old. Soon I learned phrases like "you have to keep them watered," "the radishes are up," and "you have to thin them." I learned that when you plant seeds you also plant a probability that you will receive advice and instruction.

I disliked thinning radishes--killing several plants so another could fulfill ambitions; yanking out a plant that a seed had toiled to become, seeing it wilt instantly. No good at all.

After they'd grown a while, I pulled some, and what a great red globular surprise! I pulled, and there was a fat red things with a white tail and a green extravagance.

I washed a radish, rinsed off soil. The radish then gleamed. Light from a star we called the sun landed on it.

I bit into the radish, and its hot sweetness wasn't too much for me. My seven-year-old-taste-buds liked it fine, that taste, although I still don't know what a taste-bud is.

The meat of the radish was white, almost translucent like ice or a spiritual notion which the red cover of the radish had hidden. How do I know spiritual notions can be translucent like ice? Because I've planted radishes and eaten them. That is why.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

109. Keep on Keeping On

A cat probed an empty red-labeled can of food with its nose, the can sliding on a wooden floor, on which exotic shapes of sunlight lay, and from the radio, voices discussed contemporary Cambodian music and Pol Pot's hell, which was not hell but real.

We sipped warm liquid from cups, read news of war and folly--a failed attempt to clean a poisoned bay, a skater's choice not to perform a certain jump.

We spoke of our exhaustion. We get up and work. We get up and work.

Sunlight on the floor migrated. We spoke of laundry. Elements of the day accumulated to make another day. We knew enough not to speak of the incoherence of accumulation. Thinking thoughts and performing tasks, we continued. We kept on.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

108. Alpine Ride

Gus was my horse that day--"a known eater," said the wrangler, a cowgirl from Portola.

Horses and us--we picked our way through heavy timber, sunlight shafting through to illumine ferns nourished by springs.

From a clearing, we saw mountains higher than the mountain we here on. Horse-tails swished. Sweet odor of horse manure sometimes wafted. Then there: the painfully blue lake, exquisite and real.

Gus liked to sop and nip red heads of Indian paintbrush wildflowers; chew; snort. I let him eat, wasn't supposed to.

It was summer, we were riding a loop, and Gus had a sense of how pointless it all was. Alpine breezes pushed off the lake. I nudged Gus forward, past wildflowers down the the rocky, dusty, dry trail.

Monday, February 15, 2010

107. Red Cabins In Sweden

Summer cabins in Sweden are painted a singular red influenced by a mineral, copper.

When summer arrives, and the sun returns from its exile to Tierra del Fuego, one may be inclined to think one has earned this light, which collaborates with receptors in eyes and brain to send a signal: red cabin.

Red cabin beside a blue lake in Sweden. Yellow flowers beside a path. Shadows shifting in birch woods. Silver fish in the blue lake. Yellow birds on white/black birch branches. Custom and respite reside, implied, in the red-painted wood of a cabin.

The yellow clean hair of a woman, her children laughing, her husband sleeping in a chair outside.

The rest of the world isn't here, the woman thinks, nor is my job, nor are the bulk of my worries, nor the foul fatigue of Winter. Just far enough away, the sun isn't here, but its light and warmth are. This is the red cabin, she thinks. This is where it is and when it is, summer. This is Sweden, which isn't somewhere else, and I am resting.

Monday, February 1, 2010

106. Diesel

I've always liked the smell of diesel oil, even though I shouldn't--because it stinks, and because I don't know what "diesel" means.

The other day I was standing on a sidewalk in Tacoma, Washington, United States, when a large bus waddled by, giving of its diesel odor. There must have been something else significant in the air because the smell made me think of standing in Stockholm, and normally I don't associate diesel with Stockholm. Anyway I experienced nostalgia for snow, a certain quality of light, and a certain configuration of cold in Sweden. Indeed I named the experience "nostalgia" almost immediately even though I knew nostalgia has such a bad reputation that it's almost a sin.

Then a talker accosted me. He was the type of person who talks constantly to no one in a city, pretends to direct traffic, and otherwise carries on. He carried on to me.

"If you don't stop following me," he said, "you're going to get killed." I knew he was begging the question, but I also knew pointing out the fallacy would not be effective.

Unrhetorically terrified, I said, "Understood," and noticed the red woolen scarf around his neck. My heart-rate had accelerated, I noticed. I walked away. He came after me. "I know you're every move!" he yelled. He'd turned me into a coward. Apparent insanity, combined by such apparent aggression, has that effect on me and others. I went into a shop.

I told the proprietor, "That person is following me."

"Oh?" she said, and her face looked worried, as if I were the type of person who thinks people are following him.

"I don't know what to do," I said. She looked through the window carefully at him, his red scarf, his talking mouth, and sized up the situation.

"Go on down to the bus-stop and get on a bus," she said. "He won't have any money for the bus. Or he'll be afraid of the bus."

"Good idea," I said. Feeling obligated to her, I decided to buy something, so I purchased a small round tin container of a waxy, aromatic substance. I didn't know what one was supposed to do with the substance. Apply it to lips or automobiles? Apply it to a coiffure? It smelled like coconut. I wished she carried a kind that smells like diesel.

Followed closely by the man, I walked to the bus stop and waited while he upbraided me further. He appeared to be unarmed and chiefly a rhetorical assailant, so gradually I grew tolerant of him. Eventually a bus waddled up and stopped. I got on, paid my money, and sat down. The man's eyes followed me to my seat, and the last image I saw of him featured his yelling at the bus and me. I rode around for a while, thinking of Stockholm, and then I got off, leaving the tin of of wax on the seat.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

105. Loading Words

Along the rust-brown flammable river stand warehouses filled with words. Most are sold to journalists and governments. I run the fork-lift.

It's a job. I'm not interested in warehoused words, crate upon crate, except as something to move for pay. I live with chronic grief for loss of words I used to love. They loved me. Apple, chevalier, pelican, chrome, banister, quince, brushings, and black--a few.

I don't know what happened. This is a way of saying I know what happened--and happens. We get worn known. The magic of words gets stolen--by whom or what who really knows? We agree to do too much for too little. We ask almost nothing of language, which becomes a plain gray tool. We stagger home in dark and wonder if the river will catch fire.

Monday, January 25, 2010

104. Red Machine


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(photo by Sheri Weinsheimer, used by permission)
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Hey, may I borrow your red machine? I heard it works, and I know it's clean. I got a job for that red machine.

When I show up at the venue in question, the site of toil, the job of work, I'll say, "Here I am--I'm ready to go," and your red machine will positively glow; it will let them know that business is what I'm intending to mean.

Thank you kindly for the loan and the use of your red machine, perhaps the best job-enhancer I have so far seen.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

103. Beside Yourself

By firelight get yourself right. Leave ambitious illusions on a ledge out there in darkness. Stare.

The perfectly explicable insanity of flame--red, yellow, white, blue--cures you of your rational disease and passionate preferences, leaves you next to nothing and beside yourself where you belong.

By firelight, warm your face and hands. Face and hands. Think of the faces and hands belonging to those coming before you, arriving after.

Forget what you know about stars. Ignore the moon. Crouch. Watch fire.

Monday, January 11, 2010

102. Experimental Aircraft

Once there was a woman who wished she didn't know so many things for sure. She'd learned not to try to convince people of what she knew, for they believed they knew things for sure, too. Arguing fatigued her. Besides, eventualities would demonstrate what was true better than she could: this she knew, too.

For instance, her husband took up the hobby of flying small experimental aircraft. When he'd told her of this new pursuit, she'd said, "I love you, and consider the word 'experimental,' please. When a cook experiments with a spice and fails, the result is merely an unappealing dish. When an experiment in aviation fails, gravity wrecks." Her husband had scoffed. He was jolly.

Later, when he showed her a red aircraft of startling design, she knew the plane would fail--before takeoff, she hoped. The experimental aircraft simply looked too much like art and not enough like engineering to be competent in the sky.

News of the fatal crash shocked her though she wasn't surprised. She grieved deeply. There's knowing, and then there's experiencing. Several weeks later, an attorney informed her that although her husband had intended to purchase more life insurance, he hadn't gotten around to doing so. There was some insurance, some money, but not a lot, the lawyer said. Her husband hadn't secured her economic future.

"I know," the woman said. "It's the way he was, and it's the way things are." She didn't mention how she knew that, as the plane approached the water, her husband had said "I'm sorry" to her, as if she were in the cockpit.

The little red plane didn't have a little black box, so there was no recording of her husband's last words. This absence pleased the woman, for she'd always preferred the knowing over the proof, wisdom over argument, and information over events, which could be brutal.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

101. Blueberries

She stored that peculiar summer in a closet. Breezes and creeks and crickets: she fit it all in that pantry.

Something smoky lingered lowly in flavor. She liked it and held back sugar.

She reminded her winter guests that red accounted for purple in dusk's sky.

The tongues of that December's dinner-party were darkened by blueberry preserves, as were the skies of that peculiar summer as they settled in the closet, which held her canning.

Monday, January 4, 2010

100. He Likes His Kitchens Dry

An avalanche roared down importantly the other day, all boulders, snow, and noise--a terrible noise. "Stop right there," I said, and it did. I told it all about the woman I love. The avalanche cried pebbles of joy.

The other night I threaded darkness through a needle and stitched the moon onto the sky. A gratuitous gesture, perhaps; anyway, to assembled onlookers, I mentioned I was among those counted as being in love, hence the fancy needle-work.

The river considered ignoring its red-clay channel to flood this fine town. No, no, no you don't, wet friend, I said. I'm cooking for the woman I love, and I like my kitchens dry, so stay within your banks, and thanks.

Friday, January 1, 2010

99. She's Been Thinking

"I've been thinking," said the woman.

"That statement begs for a witty retort," said her friend, also a woman. "But I can't think of one."

"How would you describe me?" the woman said. "--I mean, if you were writing a story in which an illusion of me appeared?"

"Black hair, shoulder length--straight but not morose. The hair, I mean."

"Can hair be morose?"

"Yes, but don't interrupt. Pale but healthy complexion--white, if you will. Figure--not willowy, but not oak or sequoia sempervirens, either. Taller than the average woman but only just. Blue eyes. A tendency to brood, unlike her hair, which is not morose, as noted. Clothed."

""'Clothed'?"

"Would you like to be naked in the story?"

"It depends on who else is there. You know me. I am shy. I'll say no. That's a good description. People can fill in the rest?

"You mean, like red lipstick and ears?"

"I'm not wearing red lipstick. Any lipstick."

Walking, they had reached a cafe, which smelled of course of coffee, and of cardamom, people, and snow. Outside, there was no mistaking Winter.

"People will fill in as they wish. Maybe lipstick, maybe not. Definitely ears. I've been thinking, too."

"About what?"

"About thinking. About all the past and current thinking humans and hominids, all of them, have done, are doing. The volume of thoughts--it seems unimaginable."

"Then don't try to imagine it, the volume."

"But it inspires wonder, the imagining."

"And?"

"And so, my dearest friend, I think I will imagine. If I can."