Paul Hostovsky is the author of three
books of poetry, Bending the Notes, Dear Truth, and A Little
in Love a Lot. 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. To read more of his work, visit him at
© 2012 Paul
Conversations with My Son
Houdiniesque and eight,
he snakes out of his seatbelt
on our way to Peabody Elementary,
and rests his little mug just behind my ear.
Here he puts a metaphysical question,
a prestidigitation of the mind:
"Where is Cleveland Ohio?"
And before I can answer, another:
"Would you rather be buried or
I ask if he means "cremated."
He asks me what's the difference.
I tell him and he says, "I just don't think
you should take up too much space
when you're dead, Dad."
For Pete's sake, I mutter.
And he's right there with another: "Who's Pete?
and what's Pete's ache?"
Together we watch the road to school
unfold like a familiar story
while I tell him the story of Pete,
the guy who said he loved Jesus so much
he would die for him.
That was his ache, I say.
But when the time came,
when the soldiers all came with their swords
blazing like the sun,
Pete got scared. And he ran away.
And he didn't do what he said he would do.
And that was Pete's ache, too.
"I think I'd rather be crucified," he says
as I pull in behind a school bus.
And I'm not quite sure if he means
he'd choose the pain of the nails
over the pain of the betrayal,
or the fire over a pine box in the earth.
Before I can ask him he's out,
he's unbuckled his belt, unlocked the door
and reappeared outside, running up the hill,
his little backpack full of tools
bouncing on his shoulders,
a head on his shoulders full of questions,
questions escaping all over.