Dear Truth


Poems by

Paul Hostovsky

Poetry book, 90 pages, $14 cover price

($12 if ordered from the MSR Online Bookstore)

ISBN: 978-1-59948-209-5

Released: 2009


PHostovskyPx3Paul Hostovsky’s poems have won a Pushcart Prize, the Murial Craft Bailey Award from The Comstock Review, and chapbook contests from Grayson Books, Riverstone Press, and the Frank Cat Press. He has been featured onPoetry Daily, Verse Daily, The Writer’s Almanac and Best of the Net. His first full-length collection, Bending the Notes (2008) is available from Main Street Rag. Paul works in Boston as a sign language interpreter at the Massachusetts Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing.

Dear Truth is close kin to Paul Hostovsky’s other work, but much here is concerned with physical pain, its etiology and its indescribability, its persistence in the psychic world too. But humor is always standing at the abyss with this poet–and enormous good will. Like Kunitz, he is a master at revealing tenderness; like Gerald Stern, his onrushing lines trap the reader in a tidal pull, and we have no choice but to read on. Dear Truth/ I do not love you./ I am running away/ with my beloved/ illusions… We run away with him to his difficult alluring country of paradox, pain and irony–and the unique existential mischief that relieves it all.

–Suzanne Berger


Paul Hostovsky has the storyteller’s gift for character and voice. He has the lyricist’s gift for extracting the essential moment, holding it up like a crystal, and making it sing. He brings us into a world where beauty and pain reside together. From the shards of illness, addiction, and fractured love affairs, he meticulously crafts poems that are significant and durable.

–Diane Lockward


Although the title poem is a sort of Dear John letter to Truth, the book itself is, in fact, dedicated to truth on a larger scale: the expansive and various truth of the imagination. In these touching, finely crafted, and often funny poems, Hostovsky remains true to his lively and inquisitive vision of the world, to beauty, joy, pain, and grief, always displaying a love of language that is contagious and invigorating.

–Jeffrey Harrison

History with a Smile

Rachel Ray has a beautiful smile,
I think to myself in the checkout line.
People have been smiling since Cro-Magnon,
I think to myself a little farther on
in the checkout line. It’s hard to imagine
the bad teeth of the poor and the hungry
and the miserable throughout history
with Rachel Ray smiling at you in the checkout line.
But I think I would have liked history more
if Mrs. Manganelli, on the first day
in the 8th grade, had smiled a little like Rachel Ray,
simply panned the room with a shiny
timeless smile and said: “You know, children,
people have been smiling since Cro-Magnon.”
I think that would have made a big impression on me.
I think the first assignment should have been
to smile, to look around the classroom at each other
smiling, and choose one smile
like a project or a special topic-divide up
into pairs and try to imagine
that smile occurring in a different century,
a hundred or a thousand or a hundred thousand
years ago, in a cave in France, or Pompeii
or Jerusalem or Alexandria or
Virginia. A line of sight, like a ray
beaming out from another time and place,
one person’s smile shedding light
on everything. I think that would have gone a long way
toward our enlightenment. And maybe Bethany
Beauregard in the desk next to mine
with her aristocratic nose and prominent
gums and pointy eye-teeth flaring out
next to her impacted premolars
would have made the French Revolution come alive for me
in a way it never did, because Mrs. Manganelli
never smiled, and the first assignment wasn’t
any more or less than the first two chapters
in a used world history book with only the occasional
gray engraving of someone or other
in a long line of dead people, not smiling.

Dear Truth

I do not love you.
I am running away
with my beloved
illusions. The sweet
nothings. Nothing
is what it seems.
I love what seems.
I am crazy in love with
the painfully obvious
transparent surface.
I am simply hungry.
You keep the house
and everything in it.
I am taking the dog.
And the windows.

Kissing the Cat

In the catalog of my addictions
which is in the order I acquired them,
the mouth of my cat Pinky
is preceded only by my thumb–

His mouth was the only mouth
that didn’t speak the language
of our house and television,
so I knew he’d never tell

as one by one my self-propelled
fish-mouth kisses found his mouth
and exploded, and his eyes
dilated like the binocular view from space

of a world going up in smoke,
and his ears changed shape like a hat
changing heads on his head–
Still as a water jug, he sat

enduring as I sipped his spout
on the lime couch
in front of our television, which
in the catalog of my addictions

would be the third entry.
According to my sponsor Phil,
either we give them up in the order
they’re killing us–which is often the reverse order

of their acquisition–or else
we simply exchange them one for another
and they kill us cumulatively.
Pinky died when I was off at college

learning to shotgun beers and roll a joint
while steering a car with only one knee.
I never graduated. But I did finally get sober.
And when I finally got sober, I got a kitten–

He tottered around my apartment, tentative
and awkward as my new sobriety.
So I named him Thumbs. And now we’re two
old toms living together, complacent

and fixed. We’ve given up everything
including sex. He mostly likes to sit
on the kitchen table, next to my cup and my plate,
while I’m eating. And mostly I just like

to let him.

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