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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.

Look at the fountain, look
at the water shooting up like a tree
per second, tree per second,
breaking into flower then falling,
breaking into flower then falling,
up the hill of the air and down,
and the eye hardly knows where to look,
so much living and dying, living and dying,
and at first the eye looks up because up
is where everything seems to be rushing,
but then the eye looks down because down
is where everything seems to end up.
And soon the eye grows tired of looking.
The tree of the eye grows thirsty and it closes.
It drinks for a brief time from the darkness.
Then it starts all over again, look—
tree per second, tree per second.

Paul Hostovsky's latest book of poems, A Little in Love a Lot, is forthcoming from Main Street Rag. To read more, visit his website