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a literary journal published by the Black Earth Institute dedicated to re-forging the links between art and spirit, earth and society

Paul Hostovsky


When we arrived
at the prison
for the poetry reading,
they took our shoelaces.
But they gave them back.
after the reading. Something about
weaponizing shoelaces. Nothing
about weaponizing poetry.
An inmate played the violin
as we filed in and took our seats,
then one by one we read our poems
to the inmates and the inmates
read their poems to us. You could
tell the guards didn’t like poetry.
The poetry was a kind of
punishment for the guards,
a kind of escape for the inmates
who walked right out of there
in the poems, barefoot and twirling
the shoelaces, skipping and holding hands
with the guards, telling the truth,
not the whole truth but
lots of little tricky emotional truths
which you can only


Take, for example, the grass
in the suburbs of America,
how it forecloses the likes of
curly dock, tansy, clover,
creeping thyme,
buttercup, ragweed–
any raggedy brown
or blue or red or yellow
unruly thing
applying for entry here,
hoping to live and to flourish here–
all the so-called weeds,
all the beautiful wildflowers–
turned away, mowed down,
poisoned. And hasn’t it always
been this way, only the pure,
cropped, decorous green
grass and its offspring welcomed here?
But at what cost to all of us
this skewed sense of beauty
and propriety, this monochrome
monoculture with its monotonous
traditions of separateness
and supremacy, totally lacking
in any flavor or utility
or spirit? The dispirited grass,
asleep in its vast bed
of privilege, dreams of the invading
hordes of color, riots
of dandelion, chicory, purslane,
which all make fine eating
and live on the other side,
out in the waste places,
out along the roadsides,
not very far away
but far enough away
so that the lonely, privileged,
uninflected grass begins to feel
a profound sense of loss
and a profound sense of sadness
to think of the fine company
and the fine eating
of its despised neighbors,
all the brothers and sisters
whom it has never met
and does not know at all.


Paul Hostovsky’s poems have won a Pushcart Prize, two Best of the Net Awards, the FutureCycle Poetry Book Prize, and have been featured on Poetry Daily, Verse Daily, and The Writer’s Almanac.

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