Paul Hostovsky Two Poems

To Leave


Those rocky outcroppings

on the side of the highway

remind me of the planets

the Little Prince visited—


just big enough

for one person and a desk,

a space for thinking to yourself

out in the middle of space.


That’s what I’m thinking as I drive past,

picturing that little kid

with the long scarf and yellow hair

standing up there. How did he


get around anyway? They never

explained that in the book. Madame

loved that book and wanted us

to love it, too. But I think we


misunderstood it. Something about

a flower and a sheep. A fox and a hat that

was really a snake with an elephant

inside it. That book was harder


than it looked. Maybe that’s why

I’m still thinking about it now,

looking for an exit ramp, light-years

away from that hillocky sphere 


where I was a kid myself once. Madame 

got sick—and we had a substitute teacher 

who dropped her r‘s, even in French.

Every time she dropped an r we dropped


a book, loudly on the floor. Oh, how we

tortured her. She got mad, ordered me to

leave: sortez! Minus the r, it sounded

like sauter: to jump. So I jumped


up and down, up and down. I kept

jumping because she kept on yelling:

sautez! sautez! Madame never did

come back. I think she may have


died. It was ambiguous, the way

they left it at the end of that book—you felt

like crying though it wasn’t clear exactly

what happened. Just that it was sad,


but also somehow very

beautiful. Sometimes you don’t

quite know why you feel like crying.

You just do. And it feels good, somehow.


Once upon a time I was laughing,

when the next thing I knew

a book shut loudly, then a door

was closing behind me


and I was leaving—

walking down an infinitely 

tessellating hallway, crying

with a little jump in my step.


Signing is the Most Beautiful Singing




Maybe I should tell the ending first. 

In the beginning was the ending.

If it’s a story worth telling, a song 

worth singing, it should sing itself. KISS-FIST

is one sign for love. Two fists crossed

at the chest, like a hug, is another. Signing

was hands-down the most beautiful singing

I had ever seen in my life. That’s the gist

of the story, the plot, the characters, each

and every visual rhyme, first line to last.

When you fall in love with a language, you fall

in love with the people who call that language

home. One day, I took a sign language class,

and I ended up marrying the teacher.




I married my sign language teacher.

But I never got higher than a B minus

because my receptive skills sucked. Plus,

I wasn’t able to master the classifiers,

which are pronouns, those basic features

of sign language that we hearing people mess

up most: Bodies moving through space.

I also sucked at face. And facial grammar.

But I was good at tongue: Able to impress

with my adverbs, which got her saying YES

YES YES. And KISS-FIST on our third date.

The verb of us. I asked her to conjugate it

in the future perfect. It was an interfaith wedding,

a lesbian rabbi and Methodist preacher presiding.




The lesbian rabbi and Methodist minister 

stood beside me underneath the chuppah

waiting for the bride, who was late. DEAF-PUH,

quipped a Deaf guest in a signed whisper

to another Deaf guest, causing a snicker,

then a knee-slapping giggle. “The chutzpah,

growled Uncle Hank, adjusting his kippah,

glaring at the juggling hands. He winced or

ducked each time a hand flitted or darted

from a sleeve. Finally, when the piano and cello

began fingering Pachelbel’s Canon in D

my blushing Deaf bride glided in, diffidently

avoiding my eyes. One of the Deaf guests farted.

A bad sign. Star-crossed lovers from the get-go.