Paul Hostovsky


Listen to Audio Version read by Jill Khoury.

Could it be, Delirius, that it's left to you
to say out loud what the rest of us
are all just thinking to ourselves
in so many words? If not the gist of it
then the thrust of it, the spill of it, the raging
waterfall of it? You are vaguely dangerous
with your amblyopic eye, your mossy beard
caked with dirt and crumbs and life forms that crawl
and fly. But what frightens me isn't you.
It's the danger of going where you have gone,
of opening that door, that window,
and not being able to close it now,
all the interior monologue flying out,
flying free. I envy you that freedom in a way,
the going over that waterfall
with nothing but the broken staves of your own
rotten teeth framing your verbal freefall;
the relinquishment of resistance; the syllables
of all your mutterings and murmurings,
all your enthusiasms, imprecations,
recitations and improvisations like so much
spray misting above that vertiginous
ecstatic abandon. And the faint illusion
of a rainbow hanging in the air just above your head.
No, what frightens me isn't you, Delirius.
It's that slatted green bench right next to yours,
looking so vacant, so unoccupied, and so free.

* * *


Listen to Audio Version.

The guilt, like the sand, is in everything,
being so near, as they are, to the ocean,
being so close, as they were, to the end
of their lives, before they took the lives
they took. Someone should have taken
the keys away. In many cases, they tried—
but the old, mottled, gnarled knuckles
clenched, closing reflexively around
that silver promise, its heft, its glinting
mountainous teeth. And they held on to it.
Now the guilt, like the sand, is on their hands
and on their lips. It's the grit in the food
they can't eat. Lucky the demented ones,
with no idea, no memory, blithely chewing.

* * *


Listen to Audio Version

I like to ask people the way
to places I know how to get to already.
It helps me hear better
the things they're not saying

which are the things I want to say.
It's hard to put into words exactly
is what their faces seem to convey
as they look around thoughtfully,

searchingly, that faraway look in their eyes
(which is exactly what I'm looking for)
getting closer, getting warmer
as their hands begin to describe

tiny circles in air, cutting corners,
building bridges, hands which have already
been there and back many times
in the saying.


Paul Hostovsky is the author of five books of poetry and six poetry chapbooks. His Selected Poems was published by FutureCycle Press in 2014. He has won a Pushcart Prize and two Best of the Net awards, was a featured poet on the Georgia Poetry Circuit 2013, and his poems have been featured on Poetry Daily, Verse Daily, and The Writer's Almanac. He makes his living in Boston as an interpreter for the Deaf. Visit him at