Monday, January 11, 2016

Paul Hostovsky


The first murder was my
first murder. I must have
been all of three or four
when I first heard that story.
I remember feeling sorry
for Abel. I mean it was so
irrevocable. So unbelievable.
So unfair. He actually killed him.
Killed. And how did I know
what kill meant? Someone
must have explained it to me.
That’s the part I don’t remember.
It was probably my mother,
after reading the story aloud
from some illustrated book
of Bible stories for children.
I must have looked at the illustration
for a very long time—Cain
holding up a large rock, Abel
lying crumpled on the ground,
God somewhere outside the picture—
and then I must have looked
to my mother for an explanation.
And then I must have looked
back at the picture, as we always
do, as though the picture somehow
could explain the explanation.

Paul reads "Cain & Abel":

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Paul confesses: "Killing, on the ball field, was always figurative: We killed 'em, we slaughtered 'em, we mutilated 'em. As a kid, I thought 'mutilate' meant to utterly defeat, to keep scoreless. I only learned the literal meaning much later. When do we learn what killing is? Do we come into this world knowing it somehow? This poem tries to remember, or imagine, the answer to that."

PAUL HOSTOVSKY is the author of eight books of poetry, most recently The Bad Guys, which won the FutureCycle Poetry Book Prize for 2015. To read more of his work, visit him at

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