Thursday, May 25, 2023

GAS Featured Poet: Paul Hostovsky

 Paul Hostovsky makes his living in Boston as a sign language interpreter. His poems have won a Pushcart Prize, two Best of the Net Awards, the FutureCycle Poetry Book Prize, The Comstock Review’s Muriel Craft Bailey Award, and have been featured on Poetry Daily, Verse Daily, and The Writer’s Almanac. His newest book of poems, Pitching for the Apostates, is forthcoming in 2023 from Kelsay Books.  Website:


Yesterday I couldn’t remember the word colander,

a word I love and have always thought of

as one of those words that’s lovelier than the thing 

itself. I was holding the thing itself in my hands,

the steaming angel hair pasta draining in the sink, 

when I looked at the colander and thought to myself, 

“What is the name of this thing?” And maybe it’s age,

and maybe it’s the beginning of something more

pernicious, but in the end we have to let go 

of everything. We have to let go of every single 

thing and its name. And because I have always loved 

the names of things more than the things themselves

I stood at the sink missing colander, loving it more

than the colander, more than the angel hair pasta 

that I chewed abstractedly over dinner, trying to locate 

colander in my mouth, where it used to live

until it disappeared–its three slippery syllables like

three spaghetti noodles in a pot of fungible spaghetti noodles. 

And today, when I finally remembered it–found it right

where I’d left it–I whispered it to myself over and over

like a lover whispering the name of a lost beloved

who returns, but is untrue, and will disappear again.


My mother’s new house 

was the third house on the left, 

the one with the big rock in the front yard–

you couldn’t miss it. This was

on the third rock from the sun, the one 

with billions of people on it–you couldn’t

leave it, not even if you died

six months after retiring and moving to Boston 

to be closer to your grandchildren. It was 

a nondescript rock, a boulder really, 

that the builder probably decided on a lark

to leave there: a sort of lawn ornament,

a sort of landmark. Sandstone or limestone

or maybe shale. She’ll have a hard time 

selling it with that rock in front, said my wife. 

She won’t sell it, I said. She’s not leaving.

She died six months later, suddenly, unexpectedly, 

a bacterial infection that overwhelmed her overnight. 

We never found out how she got it. There are 

more bacteria living on your skin

than people living on the third rock from the sun. 

My son liked to climb it when we visited. 

He was only 4. His sister was 2. They don’t 

remember the rock and they don’t remember 

my mother. The buyer said he didn’t like the rock

but it wasn’t a dealbreaker. The two of us stood

in the front yard negotiating. I told him 

it was a great landmark–you couldn’t miss it. 

I told him my kids liked to climb it. I told him 

my mother lived here only six months–she hadn’t even

hung her pictures yet. Suddenly, unexpectedly, 

I started to weep. He put his hand on my shoulder

to console me, this stranger, this buyer, a tender

gesture that only made it worse, and I began to sob 

uncontrollably. I hid my face in my hands

and turned away from him, and faced the rock.

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