Paul Hostovsky poetry


All of the art students’ hairdos hold to-
gether: a newspaper hat, a pencil barrette,
a paintbrush, the weather, gravity, glue.
Art students hold that the nude is not –
gravity is – what moves us and holds us
glued to her breasts. Her skin is the weather.
That triangle of hair is a newspaper hat
penciled in and folded over, holding together.
Under the moon and a newspaper hat
I make love to a blue-haired student of art
with pencil-breasts, a single paintbrush
miraculously holding all that weather of hair.


My friend wants to know if the girl he’s seeing
is good looking. On a scale of one to ten.
So I tell him about the lioness at the zoo,
how I stood in front of her cage and just stared
for hours – all afternoon – until the people
with their cameras and children and balloons
and zoo-fact coloring books had all gone home,
all gone home. And still I couldn’t see it.

“Couldn’t see what?” he asks, tilting his head
and staring at the Infinity over my shoulder,
and seeing there only beauty on a scale of
one to ten. “The terror,” I tell him. “Terror on the scale of
dinosaurs. Volcanoes. Planetary terror. Terror that would
destroy you if it didn’t live in ten square feet, in a zoo.”

“That’s dark,” he says, and blinks twice.
Then he tilts his head again and asks
about the size of her breasts. “I haven’t actually
touched them yet,” he says, “except once,
and that was only accidentally with my elbow
when I was showing her how to guide me through doors.”

Historical Clock

Don’t you just want to dummy slap history?
Don’t you want to knock some sense
into the fourteenth century, tell them about the rats
and the fleas, bacteriology, sanitation, personal
hygiene? I mean wouldn’t you just love
to bitch slap those peasants and popes
who blamed the bubonic plague on the Jews,
those flagellants who blamed it on themselves,
those doctors with their humors and bloodletting
and leeches? And aren’t your fingers just itching
to box the ears of Europe in the late middle ages
for its Inquisitions, its tribunals, its autos-de-fe?
All those poor apostates, heretics, bigamists, sodomizers
who were just like you and me. Just like you and me.
For their sake – for all our sakes – I say,
let’s clock history, cuff it upside the head,
for all its ignorance, sanctimony, rectitude.


 Paul is the author of Bending the Notes, Dear Truth, and A Little in Love a Lot. Visit his