Two Poems

Paul Hostovsky

sympathy cards. it's so surreal.
Photo Credit: Rachel/Fuschia Foot

Dear Hallmark

I know some kids who’d rather make their own.
And I know some grownups who would rather
cut their own tongues out
than let you speak for them. Helplessly intelligent
surrealists, glib intellectuals, haiku bicyclists, some
of my best friends. But I’ll give you this, you have
sold more poems than all the moderns and postmoderns
put together. And the people love you. Are the people just
stupid? Are the poets just jealous? Are the pharmacists
just high on life? The truth is, I love your timeless
earnestness. I do. In sickness and in health. Births and deaths
and all occasions in between. Because it goes without saying—
the whole world goes without saying. Saying doesn’t
make it go. Never did and never will. But you,
you say without going, like the clock that doesn’t
go, the clock that stays the same, your hands always
together, in applause, or prayer, or shared joy, or sorrow where
you can only wring your hands, fumble for the words,
and say the words are inadequate. Which, of course, they are.
But at least you say them. You say them for us when we go
without saying, and when we go without knowing
what to say, or don’t go at all but send you stammering
in our stead. And here I stand in your aisle, in your
shadow, in your presence, my hands in my pockets, fumbling
for my wallet, feeling I am in the presence of
not greatness, not brilliance, not scholarship or virtuosity,
but love. I am in the presence of love here, helplessly
simple, deliberately compassionate, practicing forever
its imperfect loopy cursive with its pink tongue sticking out.



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 on Poetry Daily, Verse Daily, The Writer’s Almanac, and Best of the Net 2008 and 2009.
Visit him at Email: phostovsky[at]

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