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Paul Hostovsky
Selected Poets
Books/Chapbooks 2

His work apears in Poetry East, Atlanta Review, New Delta Review, Free Lunch and others. He also works in Boston as an interpreter for the deaf.

Deaf House

My mother is deaf and I hate her. I hate her because she's deaf and because she never looks when I call her unless I call her with my hands. She talks to me with her hands and I can't look away. Because looking away is rude, she says with her hands. It's a deaf thing I guess, and I hate all the deaf things. Like the eyes that are always looking and the hands that say it's rude to look away, and the shoes that never excuse themselves, those deaf shoes. You can't tell the deaf shoes by their looks. You'd never think that they were deaf until you heard one. Even a deaf man wouldn't think till he heard he wore deaf shoes. He'd walk through his house never guessing. Ring
the doorbell, go ahead, you can tell the deaf house by the giant fireflies flashing their pear-shaped abdomens in every room. Every time the doorbell rings, and every time the telephone rings, so all the neighbors know. I hate the neighbors for knowing. And I hate the neighbors for telling me to tell my mother. Because the neighbors don't know the sign language. I don't hate the sign language though, I hate the neighbors. For saying how beautiful the sign language is, and how lucky I am for knowing it. When they don't even know what they're saying, and they don't even know it themselves. And I hate my mother for not knowing what she doesn't know.


After the reading, he dreamed he kissed in this order: two drops of urine, her mouth saying fuck, a birdlike something, a folding chair, his indelible pen, the tip of an unkind gesture and a sestina. There was only one working toilet. It was locked when he got there, so he waited. He waited for a long time. When the door finally opened, it was her. He recognized her from her picture. She grazed him in passing, then, there on the toilet, unmistakable, personal, vestigial, gleaming, were two exquisite drops of her urine, an inch apart, beaded on the seat and unbroken. He stood there for a long time
considering them. When he came out she was talking to someone up front. Her eyes were darting, brilliant, skimming among the folding chairs like some rare and flickering birdlike thing which grazed him once he thought, it was hard to tell, because her hair hung down half-hiding her face, and he was looking more at her mouth anyway, and her breasts which were small, when someone made an announcement and they all took their seats. He ended up sitting in the chair directly behind her. When she got up to read, he felt a perverse desire: to lean forward and graffiti a word, maybe several, on her seat with his indelible pen. While he tried to think of the right words, she read. And she read from memory, so her eyes never touched down on the page, not once, not even to turn the pages, and she did turn the pages, and the book was a boat and she read from it deep down under it, like a diver breathing in nothing but poem after poem. How long could she last, how long, he wondered. This was the power, the endurance of poetry: memory, athletic and sexual. He felt like cheering when at last she looked down, before the final poem, to say it was new, and a little uncooked, a sestina. Then he watched her mouth saying fuck at intervals, over and over, six times in all, he counted, but different each time: infinitive first, then gerund, predicate adjective, imperative, simple past tense verb, then brilliantly, noun. When she finished reading everyone stood up and applauded, fiercely and for a very long time. That's when he leaned forward on his elbows, quietly writing in a neat small hand, diagonally on the white seat in front of him: Fuck the envoi. Let's.

Missed Opportunities List

My dictionary, which was my mother's dictionary, does not contain Tofu, Fu Manchu, Go Mo Fo, or Fee Fi Fo Fum. It does contain Vixen, a female fox, a lesbian bar in Provincetown, and not a bad Scrabble word either. A murder of crows, an unkindness of ravens, restore one's faith in the collective noun. Therefore we may take our bubble baths now. My potato peeler which was my mother's potato peeler has only just today begun to blunt. And cotton balls is a complete sentence. Buddha spelled backwards is ah ddub, which one says in a tub, to dub oneself the happy Buddha of one's bathroom. So if a thief stole in, in a black woolen cap, and pointed a gun, and said 'Your money or your life,'  wouldn't you say (wouldn't even your mother say) that 'Your money or your life' was a complete sentence, with an implied subject, predicate, and indirect object? Damn straight, you would, you goddamn piano player. Go ahead, throw a stone, for once in your life. Throw one at me. I'll take your picture throwing one stone at me. Show me your teeth, you Vixen. And I'll show you the blood my dictionary lets. My mother was a lesbian rabbi making love to a congregation of one in a lighthouse in Provincetown, Massachusetts. My father was an artist. My mother an apologist, and a widow. The artist's widow said his theory of heaven could be summed up by the light bulb (not the halo, it wasn't a halo) above the head of the figure in his final painting. Then she got into her Toyota Elephant and drove off. And the priest understood the value of what she had told him. Though she'd been the dissolute wife of a dissolute dead artist. For they all three knew what it meant to be hungry. And they all three knew what it meant to lose the remote. And though he wanted to use pleasure as a verb, not buoy, he used buoy. As if to masturbate in a coffin. Then he went straight to bed and dreamed of a hundred haiku poets standing on the side of the highway, holding up their poems. And their poems were the traffic signs: beautiful, concrete, mournful, necessary, and without the slightest editorial. He read them one by one, then he hooked arms with the blind girl tapping her cane. And the world drew up its skirts, like a drawbridge, and let them pass.