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Robert Ostrom

Robert Ostrom is the author of Ritual and Bit (Saturnalia Books, 2016) and The Youngest Butcher in Illinois (YesYes Books, 2012). He teaches at New York City College of Technology and Columbia University, and lives in Ridgewood, New York.

By This Poet

2

Troubled Asset Relief

What you said I shattered was the window
but we both know what you meant. I can’t

recall a single meadow that didn’t slow my pulse.
Though you are far you are on my wing: you

are the sight of an apple in the bathroom
or oils unintended for a wood floor. A fence

ran the length of a field, between two trees
so that, in snow, it looked like stitches

or a fallen rope ladder. Did you know
that three hundred years ago the heart was

a furnace? At this point what else can I do
but follow the precedent I’ve established?

Choose one of the following: at Monticello,
the turnips gave me a toothache, or at Red

Hook, the red bees. Will you laugh if I say, I
beat my heart into a red caul of sentences?

Near the pond I lifted a rock and found life
under it crowded with so many urges. To see

if it’s possible to dig a grave, today I took
a shovel to the field. It is possible and surprisingly

easy to dig a grave! Over coffee, on the phone,
I said to you, it took trillions to prop up

the markets, but what I wanted to say was, I have
beaten my heart into a red caul of sentences.
 

With My Brother

Untying ropes from flagpoles. 

Motionless, reluctant, unchanged

even by the stillness of flags

in a century of ordinary flags. How

I love to ride with my brother

even if below our joy persists

a collective hush and something

like Lake Michigan in which we know

the day is long and the once true things

still are: What will I throw my weight

into today? Where are the sour

among the sweet cherries? The salt

from sweat makes our skin stick

but my brother is full of privilege

and things that comfort, of family

anger, that old-house feeling.