Paul Hostovsky: Poems

Spiritual Mom

Mom got spiritual in her late fifties,
and we really had no patience for all
the forgiveness. It was disconcerting
the way she’d kneel down on the floor
in the middle of the conversation
and hug the dog, whispering affirmations
into its long ear, stroking and folding it
inside out like a pocket. When she emptied
her bank account and gave all the money
to whoever asked, wandering around downtown
and reaching into her purse to offer whatever
her fingers touched first, it was the last
straw. We did an intervention, as they call it
in the field of addiction. We sat her down
and confronted her on her spiritual habit.
The room grew quiet as Mom wept softly,
her eyes searching the floor for what to say.
The silence was terrible—even the dog
cocked its head in that doglike listening way
for some kind of affirmation that Mom
had heard us, and understood, and would cease
her spiritual ways, or at least be in the world
a little more, and not walking around
like she didn’t have a duodenum,
jejunum and ileum, with one foot in Heaven
and an ear to the hot little mouth of God.


The homeless are giving their money
to poor you and me, stalled here
in traffic, despairing of ever getting home
to the lost and hopeless suburbs.

They’re reaching into their little cups
and giving away whatever
their fingers touch first,
and without thinking twice.

The clouds are passing weirdly overhead
as you and I roll down our windows
and look directly into the eyes
of our backing-away benefactors,

eyes that are rolling counterclockwise
as the balked and steaming traffic
rolls backwards into the obscure
streets of the impoverished heart
of the city.

Strip Tease at the Ars Poetica

First I took off my coat
because I was hot
and then I took off my hat
because forty percent of your body heat is lost through your head
which is a myth
but I like certain mythologies
and I like certain hat hair
which is perverse I know but I’m kind of a perv
so I took off my scarf because it was itchy
and then I took off my gloves
because it’s hard to unbutton your shirt when you’re wearing gloves
and I wanted to unbutton my shirt
so I unbuttoned my shirt
and I took it off and twirled it around over my head
and tossed it through the air
the way they do in strip joints and in movies
and at weddings
okay maybe they don’t do that at weddings
they toss bouquets at weddings
and they twirl napkins at weddings
but you get the idea
and when I got the idea I took off my pants
because when a man gets aroused
he has this inexorable compulsion
to show his erection to someone who appreciates it
the way he appreciates it
as though it were something he had made
with his own hands
which some erections are
so then I stood there steeply rocking
in a sea of aloneness
because I was utterly alone in the Ars Poetica
with no one to appreciate what I had made
so I took off my shoes and my socks
and I hung my left sock on my erection
like a windsock
that shows the direction and strength of the wind
I didn’t make the wind but I made a windsock
or the likeness or the image of a windsock
and I stood there naked in the wind for a brief moment
admiring what I had made
because it was beautiful and true and it slanted a little
due to the diminishing strength of my erection
and all of a sudden I felt very foolish
all of a sudden I felt very cold
and alone and with no direction
so I removed the sock and I put it back on my foot
and I put my other sock on my other foot
and I dressed quickly and self-consciously
and stuffed my hat and scarf and gloves back inside my coat pockets
and then with my coat in one hand and my shoes in the other
I tiptoed out of there in my stockinged feet
and I only am escaped alone to tell thee

Coffee Run

“Hey Bob,”
I said to the nabob
sitting under the baobab
in the lotus position.

Bob was a kind of
nickname, a kind of
diminutive, a kind of
presumption, really, him being
a nabob and all.

Like Jesus, Buddha,
Muhammad et al.
he was rich in the spiritual
sense, but ever since

the recession of 2008
he was poor in the dollars-and-cents
sense. “Hey Bob, you got
50 cents? Let’s consolidate
and get a cuppa joe.”

He flinched as though
the proposition were a fly
alighting on his unibrow.

Then, slowly, mindfully,
he dipped a crimped hand
into his dhoti, extracted

a crinkled dollar bill,
and offered it up
like a moist and crumpled

prayer without opening
his eyes.

Subject: Poem

There’s anti-matter
and there’s brain matter
and there’s subject matter,
and then there’s the matter

of the poem you pasted—
splattered, really—
into the body of your email
(“No Attachments,”

snide title), excoriating
(which comes from Latin
for: ripping the skin off)
our relationship. The all-over-

the-place formatting, the anti-
male invective, that toxic bilge about
pansexuality and post-modern
love—it’s a no-brainer: Amanda

wrote it. She’s in my
poetry class and writes this kind of
dark-matter poem herself, hates me—

always has—and has a thing
for you. I’m not blind. Do
what you need to do. I am
taking back my William

Carlos Williams. Blocking
your email and hers.
Throwing out your
Gertrude Stein.

image: Skeletons (calaveras) riding bicycles,José Guadalupe Posada, Mexican ca. 1891, Metropolitan Museum OA

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