Paul Hostovsky


Listen to the audio version read by Sean Mahoney.

When I see Deaf people signing into their smartphones–
singing into their smartphones–I can't help
thinking of Alexander Graham Bell,
enemy of sign language, oralist, teacher
of the Deaf, and inventor of the telephone–
the single greatest handicap
to Deaf people's pursuit of jobs and happiness
for a hundred and fifty years. I imagine him rolling over
with Beethoven, whose own deafness was variously
attributed to syphilis, lead poisoning, typhus,
his habit of immersing his head in cold water
to stay awake while composing. Roll over
Beethoven and tell Tchaikovsky the news
the Deaf are singing into their cell phones, signing
into their cell phones. Signing is the most beautiful singing
the world has ever seen
, I whisper to Bell, who doesn't
see it. Though he can't stop staring. He grabs a fistful
of his own beard, as if to pinch himself awake
from this impossible dream he never dreamt because
of a failure of his imagination. Watson, come here, I want you…
to see this
. The dream that any Deaf
Tom Dick or Harry or John Paul George or Ringo
or Ludwig with two thumbs could punch in a number
and see the most beautiful singing the world has ever seen
and understand what it means--that dream is coming true.


Paul Hostovsky works as a sign language interpreter and Braille instructor in the Boston area. His poems, stories and essays have often appeared in Wordgatherin. He has won a Pushcart Prize, two Best of the Net awards, the FutureCycle Poetry Book Prize, and five poetry chapbook contests. He is the author of nine full-length collections of poetry, most recently, Is That What That Is (FutureCycle Press, 2017). To read more of his work, visit him at: