Poetry / Poets / Writers / Writing

Poems by Paul Hostovsky

Dooley for State Rep

A small band of supporters
holding up signs and waving
on the corner of Pleasant and Main
on this gelid November morning–and who
is Dooley? He’s the one among them
who isn’t wearing a hat, the one
with the gelled hair, very red
ears, frozen smile, waving at me
as I drive by, the wind chill
minus twenty, his breath sending out
these little diplomatic envoys
of wispy white warmth every which way.
This man without the hat, without
the sense to put on a hat in weather
like this, this man who wants my vote,
who wants to represent me in the capital,
this man who made the bad decision
to forgo the hat this morning because
it would cover his excellent hair,
or it would make him look weak
when he needs to look strong,
needs to look excellent, and I think
this is exactly what’s wrong with America
and its leaders, and its image in the eyes
of the world: it all comes down to this
hat, which this man who wants my vote
but shall not have it, doesn’t have on.

My P.U.

Somebody–maybe Maria Callas, maybe
Sutherland–kept crooning mai piu, mai piu…

on the Welbilt radio in my grandmother’s
living room. While somebody else–maybe

me, maybe my cousin Michael–had recently
farted. Never again would I hear that aria

(which was at least a hundred years old)
without hearing me and my cousin Michael

(who were at most eight and ten years old
respectively) laughing hysterically, dying

operatically over and over again on the couch,
with that mortified diva confessing mournfully

and that smell rising up as potent as history.

If Only Life Were Like Language

and all the natural resources like words,
then the world would be
an unambiguously better place
because when you use a word
like apocalypse, say, it doesn’t then follow
that there is one less apocalypse to go around–
there are still an infinite number of apocalypses,
more than enough for everyone–and the more
people who use a language the more
the language grows rich and strong
and resourceful and ramifying
with new and far-out ways of saying things,
not to mention all the lexical borrowings that go on,
the exotic words and phrases, and the names–
names of people and horses and hurricanes
and hand creams and automobiles–
and the lists, praise be to God for the lists!
Which is just the opposite of the world,
with its dying rivers and dwindling resources
and endangered species list.
With words you can make stuff up out of nothing
which is more than you can say
for physics or chemistry or corn. Earth’s
the right place for language. I don’t know where
else you could invent an imaginary escape hatch
up and out of a dying world,
and take a little of the world with you
in your pockets, like the jingling coins of a realm,
or like the crepitating bits and pieces
of a beautiful intact dead language
for sprinkling over the smart lunch conversation
in the next.


Paul Hostovsky’s latest book of poems is The Bad Guys (FutureCycle Press, 2015). He has won a Pushcart Prize, two Best of the Net Awards, and been featured on Poetry Daily, Verse Daily, and The Writer’s Almanac. Visit him at www.paulhostovsky.com

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