Poetry 2013 / Volume 44

The Only Question — Paul Hostovsky

She was very beautiful.
Exceptionally beautiful.
But beautiful in the way of
certain sudden realizations,
like: my god, is it raining?
or: look how huge the moon!

She was at the poetry reading.
My poetry reading. Just one among
many pretty undergraduates
until the Q&A. That’s when she
raised her hand in the third row
and asked me, “What inspires you?”

What I should have said was,
“Beauty. Beauty inspires me.”
And left it at that. And let
the awkward silence speak
for itself while I stared at her
from up at the podium for perhaps

a whole minute, ignoring
the chair of the English Department
clearing his throat, the few diffuse
titters filling the room, the enormous
moon filling the big picture
window as my drenched gaze

fell on her, steadily, like a fine summer
rain falling on the second seat
in the third row. But what I said,
a little dryly, was, “Literature. Great
literature inspires me.” And she looked
away. And hers was the only question.

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