Paul Hostovsky


(listen to the poem, read by the author)

The sign at the end of the corridor
says Authorized Personnel Only.

Are you authorized? he says.
I’m an author, I say. I have
authored. I am authorial.

Don’t be smart, he says.
I’m not smart, I say. I’m
pretty average, really. A writer
writes. Period. And reads a lot.

You can’t be here, he says,
his finger worrying his holster.

There is no verb “to be,” I say,
in American Sign Language.
Which doesn’t mean that Deaf
Americans aren’t. Or that they don’t
talk about being. And I hold up
one forefinger.

I’m going to count to three, he says.
And he holds up one forefinger.

Your forefinger and my forefinger, I say,
are two persons, two personnel,
two pronouns, two classifiers
in ASL.

Two, he says.

But that’s classified, I say,
hoping it might disarm him.

Three, he says,
and that’s when I blow him a kiss.

Breaker 1-9, he says into his walkie-talkie,
staring straight at me. We’ve got
a nut-job here. Do you copy?

So I take out my hand-turned
red cedar pen. And I begin copying
this all down.

About the Author

Paul Hostovsky is the author of ten books of poetry, most recently, Late for the Gratitude Meeting (Kelsay Books, 2019). His poems have won a Pushcart Prize, two Best of the Net awards, the FutureCycle Poetry Book Prize, and the Muriel Craft Bailey Award from Comstock Review. He has also been featured on Poetry Daily, Verse Daily, and The Writer’s Almanac. He makes his living in Boston as an ASL interpreter and a Braille instructor. Website:

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