Poetry: Paul Hostovsky

HostovskyTrombone Lesson    by Paul Hostovsky

The twenty minutes from half past nine
to ten of ten is actually slightly longer
than the twenty minutes from ten of ten
to ten past ten, which is half downhill
as anyone who’s ever stared at the hillocky
face of a clock in the 5th grade will tell you.
My trombone lesson with Mr. Leister
was out the classroom door and down
the tessellating hallway to the band room
which was full of empty chairs and music stands
from ten past ten to ten-forty, which is half
an hour and was actually slightly shorter
than the twenty minutes that came before or after
which as anyone who’s ever played trombone
will tell you, had to do with the length of the slide
and the smell of the brass and also the mechanism
of the spit-valve and the way that Mr. Leister
accompanied me on his silver trumpet making
the music sound so elegantly and eminently
better than when I practiced it at home
for hours and hours which were all much shorter
than an hour actually, as anyone who’s ever
practiced the art of deception with a musical
instrument will tell you, if he’s honest and has any
inkling of the spluttering, sliding, flaring,
slippery nature of time, youth and trombones.


See more poems in Sabio’s Poetry Anthology

About Paul Hostovsky

Paul is a sign language interpreter in Boston at the Massachusetts Commission for the Deaf: “Because it pays better than the poetry”. His wife is deaf while Paul is burdened with hearing.

Paul’s father was the Czech novelist Egon Hostovsky. But Paul did not learn Czech, but actually “spent much of [his] early childhood trying to correct his [father’s] pronunciation.” His father’s family all perished in the Holocaust and his father died when Paul was 14 years-old.

Paul dropped out of High School, enjoying pot and women more than study, but passed his GED and eventually did a college degree. He writes early each morning before going to work.

“Hostovsky’s poems strike me as kinds of (non-religious) prayers—of joy, of grief, of praise, of pain, of a blind man reading a braille book with it closed on his hand, but mostly prayers as a form of gratitude, a kind of thank you, thank you, Life!”
by Thomas Lux

“But a fine poet, Grace Paley, once said: “Poetry isn’t important; people are important.” And I would add: keep your eyes on the people, and the poems will come.”
by Paul Hostovsky


My Thoughts:

Today’s poem is in honor of the ridiculous switch to “Daylight Savings Time” this morning in my part of the world. Here, Americans pretend to be in charge of time. Yet our self-deceived control is only to the detriment of our health.

This poem illustrates how time, like color (see my post), is deceptive: with only a casual modicum of observation, we can see her for who she is – fluid, flirtatious and fictitious. She let’s us constantly know when the things we are doing are special.



Filed under Philosophy & Religion

2 responses to “Poetry: Paul Hostovsky

  1. Fascinating guy and background: this poet. His poem is not a rhyme but has a definite rhythm. I relate to his clock and classroom imagery. Yes, daylight savings and changing clock time gives us false sense of control of nature. Thanks for sharing your favorite poems and poets. Liking these.

  2. @ Scott:
    As you know, much of modern poetry does not rhyme at all — but as you say, rhythm is important.
    Glad you enjoy the poems.

Please share your opinions!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s