Paul Hostovsky’s poems have won a Pushcart Prize, the Muriel Craft Bailey Award from The Comstock Review, and numerous poetry chapook contests. He has been featured on Poetry Daily, Verse Daily, The Writer’s Almanac, and Best of the Net 2008 and 2009. His latest book of poems is A Little in Love a Lot (2011, Main Street Rag). To read more of his work, visit his website.
Just Passing Through
He’s always thinking about something else,
always looking upward, or backward, or askance,
which is why he really shouldn’t drive and why
he can sometimes be a very challenging
conversationalist. It’s kind of like he’s
driving through life, minding his own business
when he notices some sea horses bobbing among
the telephone wires. What in the world are those?
he asks himself as he drifts over the double
yellow line, looking upward out the window. Luckily
there are no oncoming cars, just an orange
pylon in the road, like an upside-down
megaphone announcing the repair-truck
parked at a utility pole, a workman lifting
himself in a bucket up to the telephone wires
where he seems to be capturing one sea horse after
another, dropping them into the boat-like bucket
in which he works, fishing high among the treetops.
Sometimes the road you’ve been traveling on
—up and down the same old stretch for years—
turns suddenly strange. Men in boats and seahorses
bobbing up and down in the air outside
your closed-in conversations with yourself.
Then all of a sudden the landscape
you thought you knew like the back of your hand
wrinkles. And you either clutch the steering wheel
and stare straight ahead (pretending your destination
hasn’t changed forever) or you pull over, open
a window, open all the windows, open your whole
life, look up, look around, see things for the first time.
He’s off to fight
the Punic Wars
who lost all 3.
He, too, is the underdog.
But he has an angle—
he’s all dressed up
to give his book report today
in 6th grade
social studies class.
A is for Alps.
is derived from Poeni,
the Roman name
for the Phoenicians,
kisses his elephant-
emblazoned cardboard shield
for good luck,
his aluminium foil sword and steps
out of my Toyota Elephant
squeezed in among the yellow
O my Hannibal,
I would teach you
that all the puffing up
in the history of the world
to a pimple
on the rear end
of a dreamy 6th grader–
Roman in your
asking to borrow a pencil.