Paul Hostovsky, Favorites

Paul Hostovsky

“My favorite part of the movie was when
he cut off that guy’s head with 2 swords.
What was yours?” My 8-year-old son
is in PG-13 heaven. His little mug is all lit up
like the moon in love with a marquee
as we spill out of the Framingham14
Cineplex, late already for his mom’s,
who will have my head for this
and that. PG-13 for pervasive violence
and some sexual content. My favorite
is his favorite subject, research topic,
science project he’s trying to make grow
in a specially reserved corner of my crowded
ear. He waters it with questions while I drive:
“What’s your favorite color? food? animal?
movie? part of the movie?” The sad part is my favorite
escapes me like a run-away balloon, a green one,
getting smaller and smaller, a tiny speck
above a childhood in Plainville, New Jersey.
Now it bumps up gently against the window
and he bats it at my head. Divorced white male with no
favorites seeks favorite. In my 40s,
the wrinkles on my forehead have begun to resemble
an approximately-equal-to sign. Everything
tastes like chicken. Mostly what we’re faced with
are these questions concerning the things we don’t
love. Because we don’t love things. As though
loving people weren’t work enough. I tell him
he is my favorite as I pull into his mom’s
driveway, her head poking out of the house
like a cuckoo in a perfectly accurate clock.
But he rolls his eyes at my easy wrong answer,
not only because it’s the plain truth, but also
because the truth is plain: G for generally happy
intact families in your face like balloons, red-
white-and-blue ones, blocking your view of beauty
which is heads rolling, and chariots crashing,
and whole civilizations going up in smoke,
not to mention the mothers with their infinitely
varying breasts, floating before the green eyes
of the incredibly shrinking fathers in disfavor.

Author’s Comment: This poem grew out of the “what’s your favorite” question, which is the favorite question of children. It’s a question that began to stump me when I reached a certain age and looked around to find (yikes) that I didn’t have any favorites. They had all disappeared, gone underground, or flown away, or would only talk to me through a lawyer. Suddenly I was in the business of visitation, me and the archangels, and my one remaining favorite wanted a sword.

Bio: Paul Hostovsky is the author of four books of poetry, most recently Hurt Into Beauty (2012, FutureCycle Press). His poems have won a Pushcart Prize and been featured on Poetry Daily, Verse Daily, and Best of the Net 2008 and 2009. Garrison Keillor has read Paul’s poems on The Writer’s Almanac seven times. Paul was also recently chosen to be a featured poet in the 2012-2013 Georgia Poetry Circuit. He lives in Boston where he works as a sign language interpreter at the Massachusetts Commission for the Deaf.


6 thoughts on “Paul Hostovsky, Favorites

  1. I never understand how other people’s favorites aren’t the same as mine. How, for example, can you not believe that “defenestration” isn’t the best word ever? Or that Galway Kinnell’s “The Book of Nightmares” isn’t the best book? Or “Of Mice and Men” with Sinise and Malkovic the best movie?

  2. Wow. I think that Kinnell’s Book of NIghtmares just might actually be the best book, but this poem by Paul Hostovsky has its own great virtues. It’s so good, in fact, that it’s scary, reminding me that favorites do indeed disappear, cease to be favorites, and how curious it is that though we may long for them, by and large we don’t actively miss them. The places of age and connection are beautifully wrought.

  3. Although I tend to shy away from sad poems, and this poem has a sad aspect, it is written with blaring honesty, smooth skill, and a sprinkling of wisdom. Congrats!

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