Winter 2011

Table of Contents - Vol. VII, No. 4


Poetry    Fiction    Translations    Reviews   

Paul Hostovsky



Reading Sharon Olds

I wonder how her husband feels
about his penis being all over her poems,
especially the earlier poems where
his penis was in its prime, her pen
was on fire, her nose for the poem
was sniffing the poem out uncannily
in every room in the house. Me, I’d
be tickled to have my penis appear
in a poem by Sharon Olds. In fact
I sort of wonder what it would be like
to be making love to Sharon Olds
now that Sharon Olds is old and her
husband’s penis appears less and less
in the poems. Last night I fell asleep
with her book lying open on my stomach,
a picture of the poet, still beautiful
in her late sixties on the back jacket just
inches from my penis. And I dreamed
we were walking arm in arm like two old
lovers who were friends now, her children
and my children running ahead like scouts
pointing at something we couldn’t make out,
calling impatiently to us, their small voices
like the poems we have yet to write. “Turn
up the heat,” she said to me, and I knew
she could be talking about my poems
or she could be talking about my life, and it
would be the same thing because her eyes
were the same eyes, and her mouth was
slightly open, as if to say “kiss me” without
saying it. But I didn’t kiss her in the dream,
I left her standing there and I started running
really, really, really, really fast.




Those early poems I wrote
as a kid, the ones that rhymed and smote
whatever needed smiting in the world
of the poem, how they puffed themselves up!
It’s not that juvenilia and genitalia
rhyme a little, but more that such a little thing
could dare to dream so big. A king’s lament
to his kidnapped Nubian concubine
with an India ink illustration of a dragon
would surely win Cheryl Spiata’s attention,
one would have thought. But who could have
dreamed her attention would morph into a kind of
mountaintop in my head where the muses live
forever; or that I’d go on trying to win
something like it, decades after losing touch with her
and everyone else in that kingdom. I was smitten
by poetry early, and I’ve been edging toward it
and away ever since. It’s a double-edged sword that,
as Emily Dickinson said, “makes you feel
physically as if the top of your head
were taken off,” and yet, as Auden said, “makes
nothing happen.” So it breaks your heart twice:
first by piercing it, then by being thinner
than paper, thinner even than air. So it makes no
shadow in the world. Barely an echo.


© Paul Hostovsky


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Poetry    Fiction    Translations    Reviews   

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