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Two Poems by Paul Hostovsky

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Tree Poem

It wasn’t that he wanted to take his life. 
He wanted to take his death
into his own hands. There was 
a difference, he knew, though he couldn’t 
articulate it. More contemplative than suicidal,
more curious than depressed,
more interested than not,
he didn’t want to talk to a therapist. 
He wanted to talk to Walt Whitman.
He wanted to talk to his best friend from
kindergarten, who’d moved away 
on the cusp of first grade, and he never
saw him again. He wanted to climb a tree
and sit up there all alone in the top branches 
watching it absorb the carbon dioxide. 
He had a bit of the tree in him himself.
He had similar aspirations
and spent much of his time in the branching
ramifications in his head. But because his children
would never be able to live it down, he climbed
down from the tree in the car in the garage
every time, and walked back into his life with a few
leaves and twigs still sticking to his head.



In Praise of the Quitter

Praise the quitter for standing up for
something more important than not giving up, 
something more worth fighting for than 
simply winning, or simply living, namely:
seeing—that there is another way,
a quiet, leaf-strewn way that leads 
off the battlefield and down through the trees
to somewhere you can’t see from here,
though he sees it, the way others see 
victory, and they stand up for the team, 
and they step up to the plate—he stands and steps
lightly off the field and into the adjacent 
woods, walking softly down a path
where the courtships of small animals go on
in the leaves, and the birds are tunneling
and darting up through the ramifications 
to the top branches, the best seats, where they look 
out over the fields of life. And what they see is
not the games, not the people playing the games;
what they see is what the quitter sees: a great sky 
and earth, and lots of little bugs swimming around 
for their dear short lives, which are shorter
than an inning; half an inning; shorter than a swing.
Praise the quitter flapping his tiny insect-wings— 
he is aerodynamically impossible, yet look at him 
go! swimming against the rules, swimming against
the odds, up through the air and off into the sunset.

Paul Hostovsky’s poems have won a Pushcart Prize, the Muriel Craft Bailey Award from The Comstock Review, and chapbook contests from Grayson Books, Riverstone Press, Frank Cat Press, and Split Oak Press. He has two full-length collections, Bending the Notes (2008), and Dear Truth (2009). Visit his website at is the world’s first online journal of place, publishing a rich mix of literature, art, commentary, and design since 1998.