I love this poem.
I would do anything
for this poem.
I am not above
stealing for example.
I stole in the past
and I stole from the past
and I’d gladly steal from your past
for this poem.
I would lie
for the sake of this poem.
I would lie in the face of this poem
just to make the poem face me.
Just to feel on my face the hot, sweet, faint
bad-tooth breath of the poem.
I could sink to anything.
I think I could kill.
I think I have killed
for the shape, the sheer
body of this poem.
Look how beautiful,
feel how impossible,
this slender, limned thing
weighing next to nothing,
saying next to nothing.
–from Bending the Notes
Everything is interesting
if you’re of a mind to see it
in that light. Claude Monet
probably understood this. The stoners
back in high school definitely
understood that everything is intoxicatingly
interesting if you’re of a mind
to see it in that light. My grandmother
in the emergency room
surrounded by doctors and nurses and children
and grandchildren, was of a mind to see
the pulse-oximeter on her left index finger
as the most interesting thing in the room,
more interesting than anything else in recent
memory, which was mostly gone
by then anyway. She cocked
her head like a bird or philosopher
contemplating a crumb
on God’s table under the light, that light,
and said to her children and her children’s children
and all of the strangers working together
to keep her from dying: “What
is the name of this thing? It’s so interesting.
I don’t think I’ve ever seen it before.”
–from Dear Truth
The Place of Literature
Mr. Gordon was perhaps a little tipsy
at the awards ceremony, perhaps a little
scornful of the football coach’s ode
to yardage, the basketball coach’s
paeons to the MVPs, the music teacher’s touting
her flautist, the science teacher his
scion of Einstein. So when Mr. Gordon
got up to give the literary magazine award
to me, he lurched a little drunkenly, swayed
a little imperceptibly, steeply rocking in his
moment on stage. Not to be outdone,
he said in his opinion I was probably
the greatest poet writing in English anywhere today—
and a gasp went up from the high school auditorium,
then murmurs of admiration and disbelief and
mutiny spread through the audience as I rose
to accept Mr. Gordon’s slightly exaggerated
handshake. Then he kissed me on the mouth,
and raised my hand above my head in the manner
of referees and prizefighters, grinning glaringly
over at the football coach, and nodding trochaically.
–from A Little in Love a Lot
There was Merton the monk, the poet, and then there was Merton
the kid in my high school class who got caught screwing his girlfriend
in the dark auditorium, behind the thick green curtain. They were
doing it on stage, when the vice principal busted them—
imagine, the vice principal of all people, entering stage left.
What was he doing skulking around back there in the dark
auditorium anyway, Merton with his pants around his ankles
was probably wondering, and is still probably wondering today,
the way a really good poem can echo over a lifetime. The girl’s
skirt was hiked up above her waist, and her shining dark nipples
shone even in the dark, as the vice principal passed ominously
in front of the pale moon of Merton’s bare and pumping butt…
Merton the monk had a brother—not a monastic brother, but a real
brother, a biological younger brother who is given only a paragraph
in The Seven Storey Mountain. Imagine, a paragraph out of
all those pages given to God. But I don’t think they’re related.
I mean I don’t think the profligate Merton of my high school in New Jersey
is the brother of the celibate Merton of that monastery in Kentucky,
the one who wrote lots of poetry. I mean lots of poetry. Maybe even
too much poetry. Because there is such a thing as being profligate
with poetry, writing too much and too facilely. And here is where
they may have been related, Merton the monk and Merton the mendicant
begging the vice principal (with the girlfriend buttoning up beside him)
not to tell. Imagine the vice principal not telling, but simply turning
around, and tactfully exiting stage left, and leaving the two
young lovers to themselves, his clicking footsteps echoing
across the silent, dark auditorium, just leaving them to carry on
where they left off: open-mouthed, speechless with
surprise and delight, and pleasure. And how could they not
pick up the thread, pull on it some more? And how could he not
pick up the pen, and write the next poem, Merton the monk, the poet
exulting in the poem whose thread he was just itching to tear
out of himself. And how could we not imagine the vice principal
not telling anyone, but returning to his office, perhaps a little flushed,
and sitting down at his desk, and staring a long time at the photo of his wife,
a sexy smile playing at her lips some game of its own imagining.
Paul Hostovsky‘s poems have won a Pushcart Prize, the Muriel Craft Bailey Award from The Comstock Review, and numerous poetry chapbook contests. He has been featured on Poetry Daily, Verse Daily, The Writer’s Almanac, and Best of the Net 2008 and 2009. A new book of poems, A Little in Love a Lot, is forthcoming from Main Street Rag.