September 10-16, 2007: Karl Koweski and Paul Hostovsky

week of September 10-16, 2007

Karl Koweski and Paul Hostovsky

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Karl Koweski

Bio (auto)

My name’s Karl Koweski I’m a 32 year old displaced Chicagoan now living on top of a mountain in Alabama My latest poetry chapbook, Diminishing Returns, is now available from

Karl also co-edits the literary website with Brian Fugett.

The following work is Copyright © 2007, and owned by Karl Koweski and may not be distributed or reprinted in any form whatsoever without written permission from the author.


if you remain in your car
all you can see
is the breakwater ragged chunks of concrete
pieces of rebar jutting out
like mummified fingers

Lake Michigan lays there
a dead ocean
indistinguishable from
its mortuary slab smell the embalming fluid,
a noxious mixture
of detergent and petroleum
byproducts pumped in
by the refinery and
the surrounding mills
after climbing the breakwater
and finding a smooth boulder
of concrete to perch on
I watch the February storm
approach from the northeast the sky and sea seem
to merge creating a
seamless shirt of the world
ten years gone
and nothing really changes Chicago still glimmers to
the west;
the distillation towers
of Amoco refinery sulks
in the east and all I ever succeeded
in doing this last decade
was killing time I murdered ten years
so cleanly
I didn’t leave so much
as a witness.

diminishing returns

I walked the road, feeling the eyes on me;
eyes from the clapboard saloon,
the general store/sheriff’s office/jail,
eyes from the darkened undertaker’s parlor
Gravel crunches beneath my gym shoes I hear the flash from a digital camera
pixilating the image of two brothers
posing in an empty horse trough
The can can girls sit on rocking chairs
outside the employees’ office They drink sweet tea and giggle like school girls They are school girls
I was my daughter’s age,
nine years old,
the last time I rode the ski lift
to the top of Gun Town Mountain it was a one-horse town then Sometime during the twenty years intervening
the horse died.

Now there’s little left
for my daughter to see The country music show is glorified karaoke The house band broke up
around the time the horse died
During the lackadaisical gunfight show
Billy the Kid is played by an actual kid But then so is Pat Garrett
and the rest of the nameless cast
firing blank guns too large for their hands
When I was a child
there were grizzled men dusty from the trail,
desperate men fighting for their lives The show ended with a hanging
and the hero riding off with the girl
The gallows still stand,
a reminder of better times And if you stand in its shadow
and listen
you can hear the disappointed sighs
of a generation of vacationers.

the 80,000 rung ladder

I wrote the final word of my first novel
yesterday Stared at the screen a moment before
pushing away from the desk I ate a quiet meal with the family
Two years
of promising my wife and children
an 80,000 rung ladder
we could use to climb out
of this trailer park poverty,
I forked the Hamburger Helper
into my mouth
and never said a word
It’s finished
but it doesn’t feel finished
Today I went to work
no different than any other day
during the last eleven years
I am surrounded by men
who have never written a novel,
never so much as read a novel
and I’m no better off
than any of them
We talk about Looney
receiving a disciplinary write-up
for getting a cup of coffee
in the break room
outside the designated break time
We boast what we would have done
had the supervisor been
foolish enough to try that shit with us;
jump kicks and karate chops,
car bombs and midnight garrotes,
but we avoid the break room altogether
And it scares me My life might all ready be finished
even if it doesn’t feel finished.


mom’s brains omeleted across
the breakfast table
body slouched in the chair
her head an empty cereal bowl

the gun’s in my hand
with the sense memory
of a pulled trigger
and mom’s dead
somehow it all ties in together
and I’m the knot

I sit in the chair across
I take the phone and dial 911
and tell them what I’ve done

mother’s blood seeps
into my shirt and jeans
wets my back and ass

I think how many times
we’ve sat at this table
me and her against the world
how she’d do anything for me
work two jobs so that
Christmas wouldn’t be lacking

and then I think how
she was before I shot her
how she wouldn’t piss
down my throat if my
guts were on fire

well, my guts are on fire
and all I needed
was twenty dollars
to ease the inferno inside me

twenty fucking dollars
to get me to the end of the day
and just thinking about it
gets me angry all over again

and I tell the cops
when they come for me
better come armed
and loaded for bear

Paul Hostovsky

Bio (auto)

Paul Hostovsky’s poems appear and disappear simultaneously (voila!) and have most recently been sighted in places where they pay you for your trouble with your own trouble doubled, and other people’s troubles thrown in, which never seem to him as great as his troubles, though he tries not to compare He has no life and spends it with his poems, trying to perfect their perfect disappearances, which is the working title of his new collection, which is looking for a publisher and for itself He has been the recipient of such rebukes as “You never want to do anything,” and “All you care about are your stupid clever poems ” He lives in Boston where he works as an interpolator of untranslatable French puns
Visit Paul on the web here:

The following work is Copyright © 2007, and owned by Paul Hostovsky and may not be distributed or reprinted in any form whatsoever without written permission from the author.

Solitary Reaper

Wordsworth was a wanker
I am writing
on the bathroom wall

at the summer writers conference
where all of the poets are sitting around
in their little tranquil groups

circle jerking
in my imagination: the blue-
haired lady with her notebook spilling

in her lap, the English teacher with his muscular
sensibillity, the diffident
housewife, musty pastor, gay accountant, haiku bicyclist and me

all squirming and sighing with the pleasures
of words
and the spontaneous

of powerful feeling

from what we recollect
or maybe
make up as we go along.

Go Children Slow

I imagine the Office of Signage
within the Department of Public Works
has a book of haiku lying open
on a table with an interesting shape,
and the Director, a thoughful man
of very few words, is steering
a hot cup of tea with both hands
up to his lips, staring
meditatively out a window
when his secretary opens the door
and introduces me I imagine I feel nervous
but recognize hanging on the walls
some of his most famous work
which of course I know by heart,
and that puts me at ease As I wait for him to speak
a car screeches, a horn
blats its blunt editorial He straightens three exactly right words
in a polygon hanging by the thermostat,
picks up the book of haiku
and reads a couple or reads
one a couple of times,
then smiles privately to himself That’s when I hold out my imaginary
resume which he takes and places in the book
and closes the book, so now I imagine
I’m holding his place with my foot
in the door.

Every American Child

will be issued a blues harmonica at birth
and taught to bend the notes because the notes
are for bending And no American child
will lock his harmonica up in a harmonica case
but will keep it in his pocket all his life
so that any lost, scattered, fallen, foreign thing,
be it lint, pollen, tobacco, sleet or spiders,
may enter through the holes and take up
residence there And every American child
will know how to inspect his blues harmonica
without assistance or prompts, unscrewing the tiny
bolts with his own fingernail, and without losing
them or the even tinier serrated square nuts,
remove the metal flanges and test each delicate
reed by plucking it with the same fingernail
to see if it rings true And every American
child will be required to carry his blues harmonica
with him on his person at all times, and to produce
his blues harmonica when asked for identification
with the blues And every American child will
be expected to learn by heart the history of the blues
because the history of the blues is an American
story, which some American grownups can’t be trusted
to tell, much less sing, to their American children.

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