Three Poems

Paul Hostovsky

What Beautiful Is (February 2/8)
Photo Credit: emma.kate

Works for Trumpet

We are listening to Alison Balsom
play Bach. “Do we have to

listen to this?” Amber, eleven,
buckled up in the passenger seat,

balks, bucks. We’re late for school—
her backpack, lunchbox, and violin

ride mutely in the back. She looks
down at the CD box, makes a face:

“Who is Botch anyway?”
Her violin leaps violently to the floor

as I brake for a stopped school bus.
“It’s not Botch,” I tell her. “It’s Bach

only the greatest musician who ever lived,
that’s who.” She gives the box a second,

closer look—“Bach is pretty. How old is Bach?”—
frowning at the photo of Alison Balsom

on the cover. “That’s not Bach,” I tell her.
“It’s Alison Balsom. On trumpet. And yes,

she is pretty.” Amber raises her left eyebrow,
then stitches it to its twin. “A girl

playing the trumpet?” And I can hear
the wheels turning, tuning, inside her head

as the school bus trundles dumbly along
and I follow close behind. “There aren’t

any girls who play trumpet in my school.
Only boys,” she says. Alison belts out another

string of impossibly gorgeous arpeggios.
Amber looks out the window, scratches

her head. She is listening. I don’t say
a word, pull in behind the school bus, park.

We sit there for a long time, the violin
on the floor, the trumpet in the air, Alison

Balsom breathing Bach, breathing beauty,
Amber late for school and listening hard.


To the Man Talking to Himself on a Park Bench

Could it be, Delirius, that it’s left to you
to say out loud what the rest of us
are all just thinking to ourselves
in so many words? If not the gist of it
then the thrust of it, the spill of it, the raging
waterfall of it? You are vaguely dangerous
with your amblyopic eye, your mossy beard
caked with dirt and crumbs and life forms that crawl
and fly. But what frightens me isn’t you.
It’s the danger of going where you have gone,
of opening that door, that window,
and not being able to close it now,
all the interior monologue flying out,
flying free. I envy you that freedom in a way,
the going over that waterfall
with nothing but the broken staves of your own
rotten teeth framing your verbal free fall;
the relinquishment of resistance; the syllables
of all your mutterings and murmurings,
all your enthusiasms, imprecations,
recitations and improvisations like so much
spray misting above that vertiginous
ecstatic abandon. And the faint illusion
of a rainbow hanging in the air just above your head.
No, what frightens me isn’t you, Delirius.
It’s that slatted green bench right next to yours,
looking so vacant, so unoccupied, and so free.



A suicide bomber isn’t born a suicide bomber.
He wasn’t a suicide bomber in elementary school
when he drew a spiky, yellow, exploding sun

above a little town between two green hills
and gave it to the teacher, and the teacher smiled.
On the day the suicide bomber was born

his father danced through the market from stall
to stall, singing the good news out until
the spiky, yellow, exploding sun went down

over the little town, and by then all the people
in the houses huddled between two green hills
had heard of the birth of the suicide bomber

who wasn’t a suicide bomber at all, at all.
He was never in his life what you would call
a suicide bomber. He was his father’s son

until that day in the market, the people and animals
splattering like so many fruits and vegetables—
That was the day the suicide bomber was born.
An exploding sun. Like millions of exploding suns.

pencilPaul Hostovsky is the author of five books of poetry and six poetry chapbooks. His Selected Poems was published by FutureCycle Press in 2014. His poems have won a Pushcart Prize, two Best of the Net Awards, and have been featured on Poetry Daily, Verse Daily, and The Writer’s Almanac. Visit him at Email: phostovsky[at]

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