Three Poems by Paul Hostovsky

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Nature Guide

Please turn your attention to the perennial
McDonald’s with its fecund golden
arches, a species that is self-pollenating
and ubiquitous, usually found in close proximity
to a Burger King, with which it competes
yet seems to enjoy a kind of symbiotic
mutualistic relationship. Across the highway
please take note of the lovely sky-blue
roof of the IHOP, and also the evergreen
Starbucks, the Petco, and the Shell gas station
with its yellow mollusk up on the marquee.
The Honda dealership, Nissan dealership, Jeep
dealership. The Walmart, Staples, Circuit City,
and too many subspecies to name: the motor-inns,
and greasy spoons, and mom-and-pops pushing up
in the shadows of the giants, ephemeral as
mushrooms. Yes, I grew up here. I have lived
among them all my life. So I learned their names
as a child. Their names are like poetry to me.




The children love the dinosaurs because
the dinosaurs were doomed too
and didn’t know it either. Take, for example,
this group of fourth graders
pushing and shoving and shuffling through the Museum
of Natural History, like a long line of
cockeyed cursive letters in a penmanship book,
each resting a hand on the shoulder of the next,
walking elephant-fashion under the enormous
skeletons, whose names are so long that
if you stood them up vertically
they might reach the small brains
of the dinosaurs themselves. Poor little
mammoths, disappearing off the face of
themselves, growing up much too soon—
already they are beginning to forget
what the rest of us can’t for the life of us
remember either. First their imaginations
will dry up, then they’ll spend their lives
putting out volcanoes, and eating their rivals,
and straining upward with pursed, prehensile lips
toward happiness, that greenest, furthest frond in the canopy.




Three of my cousins are deaf.
But I have lots of cousins,
and so the deaf ones
were always in the minority
at family gatherings
where they’d commandeer a couch
or the kitchen table and juggle
their hands. It was a language
the rest of us didn’t understand
because we never bothered to learn it.
Their conversations and our conversations
sailed along contiguously
like ships passing in the night
or like an English frigate passing
over a deaf submarine during
détente. One by one they got married
to three deaf spouses. So then there were six.
And one of them ended up having
two deaf children. So then there were eight.
Eventually they all divorced
and remarried other deaf people
with deaf step-children and deaf exes
and deaf in-laws and deaf
cousins. And before we knew it
we were totally outnumbered
at the family gatherings
and consigned to a corner
of the sectional, whispering
and ducking the flying hands,
feeling rather small
and blind, like moles or voles
trembling in the shadows
of the raptors.




Paul Hostovsky is the author of three books of poetry and seven poetry chapbooks. His poems have won a Pushcart Prize and been featured on Poetry Daily, Verse Daily, The Writer’s Almanac, and Best of the Net. Visit him at

Read poetry by Paul also appearing in Issue 25, Issue 22, Issue 19, and Issue 15.

Excavated dinosaur fossil photo courtesy Shutterstock. is the world’s first online journal of place, publishing a rich mix of literature, art, commentary, and design since 1998.