Poems by Paul Hostovsky


The first time we kissed
you turned away, saying:
“Not on the mouth. Not yet. I’m
sorry. There are things
I haven’t told you…”
I didn’t understand.
But I understood enough
to gather your hands
in my hands,
and to rest my cheek
against yours,
and to kiss
your cheek,
your temple, your

and then only
the side
of your mouth,
its corner. It was
a sort of lateral kiss,
like looking a little to one side
of a thing to see it better,
like with stars,
or with poems,
or like the truck that carries the glass
on its side,
because of the nature of its cargo.


All I need is a car
and some gas
and a garage, and I’m good to go. Good
to go. To cease upon the midnight with no pain.
Half in love with easeful death
all my life. All my life I have
been jumping to death the way others
jump to other conclusions. When I got sick
I jumped to my death. When I fell in love
I said she is so
beautiful I want to die. But a suicide
isn’t born a suicide.
He wasn’t a suicide in elementary school.
And he wasn’t a suicide in band practice.
And he wasn’t a suicide when he was playing left field.
For a long time he just wanted to be
one of those words that are acts.
A speech act. To say one is to do it. To actually
do it. I promise. I apologize. Maybe that’s why
he was always making promises,
and always apologizing
for breaking them. To cease upon
the midnight with no pain,
no pain being the operative
words here. For he doth hate pain. You can
operate a garage door from the front seat,
close it with the electric garage door opener
while your car is still running, and not get out,
and not walk back into your life.
You can sit there thinking about
the lines in certain poems
while the car is singing soft and low
and Lethe-wards. Being
too happy in thine happiness.
I don’t think I’ve ever been
too happy in mine or anyone else’s happiness.
Maybe that’s why I’m sitting here
all alone except for the sleds and the bicycles
and the lawnmowers and snow shovels
and garbage bins, thinking about Keats and
tuberculosis. And wondering: if he had a car
and some gas, and a garage, would he
have done what he said in that poem?
I know the words are not the act itself.
These words are coming before the act.
After the act, others will come
and read these words, looking for reasons.
I apologize. To the living.
I know the act itself says
there is no reason to go on living.
I know it’s kind of a slap in the face.
But it’s nothing personal.
I wasn’t talking about your
life when I took my own.
Your life is still beautiful in so many
words. I love you is another
one of those words, you could say.
Or you could argue that it isn’t.

Paul Hostovsky is the author of three books of poetry, Bending the Notes, Dear Truth, and A Little in Love a Lot. His poems have won a Pushcart Prize and been featured in Poetry Daily, Verse Daily, The Writer’s Almanac, and Best of the Net 2008 and 2009. To read more of his work, visit his website: www.paulhostovsky.com

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