Paul Hostovsky’s Comments

About “Naughton’s Quarters” there isn’t much to say except (and I hate when people say this about their poems—so I guess I’ve turned into one of those people I hate—which I guess is fodder for another poem) that it’s true. It’s a true story. It happened, and then I put it in a poem: I often go for walks in a nearby cemetery, where I noticed one of the gravestones—Naughton’s (may he rest in peace) was covered with silver coins, mostly quarters, which I’m always running out of, especially when I need them, especially for the parking meters in Boston where I work. So I stole some of them (god forgive me). And I felt a little guilty about it. And I told a friend about it later on, who told me that it was definitely not OK to do that. Nevertheless, I couldn’t stop doing it. So I wrote the poem and immortalized Naughton (“the redress of poetry?”) by putting his name in the title.

The opening lines of “Locust” (When you’re in pain/for a long time/and then the pain finally goes away/you miss the pain) was something someone said to me once (or something like that), and it stayed with me, because I didn’t understand it, and yet I knew it was true, in a way—had experienced it myself, sort of—but couldn’t explain it to myself. This poem is my attempt to explain it to myself.

As for “Postmortem,” I think the Buddha said not to pursue happiness. Which sounds a little un-American, doesn’t it? But the Buddha also said happiness itself is a byproduct. Now that’s American! Byproducts are something we, as Americans, can relate to, can’t we? The byproducts of oil refinement, say, which account for just about everything in our modern American lives, giving us all more time and energy for the pursuit of … happiness. And who knows what to do with so much happiness when it’s all said and done? Bury it in the body? Send it orbiting around in the head? Flush with happiness, it could kill us if we’re … mindful. We could die of happiness.

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