Paul Hostovsky



WORD PROBLEMS

If a man in St. Paul, Minnesota
is writing a poem on a bus
going 25 mph,
while across the street a woman
sets her alarm for 6:15 and begins
undressing, how long
before a dreamy back row kid in algebra
figures out hes fallen tragically in love
with the words,
which in algebra are in the employ
of the numbers,
which is the problem,
and the tragedy,
and the poem,
which says the words are like liveried servants
standing around the bleak table
of the numbers
without any underwear on,
attentive, attractive, redolent
of the pleasures of connotations,
but keeping a respectful distance
which is approximately equal to the distance
of the boy from the woman undressing,
plus 10 or 20 years,
minus the population of St. Paul,
in a room with only a bed in the middle
with a sagging mattress,
like an equal-to sign with a squiggly mark--
an approximately-equal-to sign--
where she stands on one side
forever undressing,
and he sits on the other
daydreaming
in the back row
of infinity?












Paul Hostovsky is the author of three books of poetry, Bending the Notes (2008), Dear Truth (2009), and A Little in Love a Lot (2011). His poems have won a Pushcart Prize and been featured on Poetry Daily, Verse Daily, The Writer's Almanac, and Best of the Net 2008 and 2009.







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