The Works of Paul Hostovsky

Paul Hostovsky's poems have won a Pushcart Prize, the Muriel Craft Bailey Award from the Comstock Review,and chapbook contests from Grayson Books, Riverstone Press, and the Frank Cat Press. His first full-length collection, Bending the Notes, is available from Main Street Rag. Visit his website at:

All Poems © Paul Hostovsky


Every time he read or wrote
or heard or spoke the word
suffering, he paused. It wasn't
the solemn way some people pause
to give thanks before a meal,
nor the sudden mid-sentence pause after the name
of someone you loved so much you lose
your breath every time--
Nor was it the ceremonious
moment of silence
sitting on all the bowed heads in a room,
nor the silence that fills a room when a room
empties, the door snapping to.
It was more like a smelling, a listening
for the aftertaste of something in the mouth, something
not in the mouth anymore, but
in the body now. In the pause,
he would listen the way you listen
at the mouth of a well
for a dropped stone,
waiting for it to tell you something.

First Kiss

I couldn't see the forest for her nose
was in the way--her face too close to mine.
I closed my eyes because her eyes were closed
and because it seemed to require some imagination.
That morning we skipped school (I had a test)
and went to the woods. She smoked, I watched her smoke:
her mouth all O's, her breath all white, her breasts
rising, falling. O, how I loved to look!
Then came the test: how look when you can't see?
Looking, after all, was still all I knew.
She knew more, of course, for she was older.
Suddenly her nose was blocking my view.
Her lips, her teeth, her tongue--her parts were there,
but she was gone now. Her wet cigarette smoldered.


We are all attracted to suffering.

And repulsed by it, too.

This doesn’t make the world go round exactly.

It isn’t a law of physics, technically.

But it may have something to do

with the relationships of bodies

in the universe. And also the atmosphere

of Earth. Which is where we all must live

for as long as we have left. For as long as we have

lift. And when you consider all of the plastic

found in the stomachs of dead seabirds—

bits of beach toy, medical waste, gnarled

cassette tape, whole flash drives, a red-striped

straw—it kind of makes you feel ashamed

of your own life. The way a seagull

rides the wind, oscillating, is almost as old

as the wind itself. What’s new is

the adult birds can’t tell the difference

between food and plastic, and they end up

feeding it to their young. It’s a wonder

they can fly at all. In particle physics

there are six different kinds of quarks

known as flavors: up, down, charm, strange, top

and bottom. We used to smoke a lot of marijuana,

then practice throwing and catching them until dark:

forehand, backhand, overhead, under

the legs, behind the back and upside-down.

When my stomach hurts I go lie down

and try to think about something else.

But my thoughts always come back to the pain,

as though it were a kind of home.

O World I Cannot Hold Thee Close Enough

Sometimes I question the whole

Enterprise, I mean the whole

Thing, the whole

Universe which is the one

Verse, the one great

Poem. Sometimes I think

It sucks so bad it’s beyond

Revision, beyond

Hope. I mean after the Big

Bang, I mean after the First

Fuck, they should have just

Flushed it down a black hole,

You know? I mean it would have

Saved us all a lot of Time and

Space. But I only

Think that sometimes. Other times

I just want to open a window and

Make love to the whole

World, I mean the whole

Earth. Sometimes I just want to

Sniff Earth’s crotch so bad I can taste it.

This usually happens in the Spring

When the sweet and sour morning breath

Of Earth just waking up, the sweaty

Neck and breasts and tangled hair

And ripe armpits of Earth

Stretching after long sleep

Can make me fall in love with the whole

World, the whole

Enterprise of Earth, and all I want

Is to lick the sleep from Earth’s eyes,

Lick the milk from Earth’s magnificent nipples,

Smell the faintly sweet irresistible smell

Of urine on Earth’s sheets,

And just follow it to its source,

Sniffing it out, licking it, eating it, loving it.


The peace of God
is a piece of cake.
Heaven is here.
Heaven is now.
God's temple
is a relationship.
Any relationship.
Every relationship.
Take a look
the world is full of
temples. Join one.
Join them all.
Join. Join. Join.
Joy. Joy. Joy.
The joy of God
is a piece of joinery.
It's a joint.