Letters from Camp by Paul Hostovsky

Letters from Camp

I’ve been reading the letters I wrote to my mother
over fifty years ago from camp–she saved
them all. When she died I found them
in a shoe box in my 9-year-old hand and
voice. A hand so loopy and innocent I could
weep. A voice I know like the back
of a very small hand that used to be mine

and somehow still is. The recurring theme
is winning (“We won the baseball game, I hit
a homer.” “We won the swim meet.” “We lost
the tenis tornamint because it was windy and the ball
didn’t go where we hit it.”) And also sugar (“Send
more candy.” “We had fribbles from Friendly’s.”
“Dinner was pizza and coke and desert was
choclit cake. The coke and cake were yumy.”)

Winning and sugar. Sugar and winning.
And it occurs to me, though the letters stopped,
the same themes continued for fifty years: winning
at school, winning in romance, winning at work, always
the need to kill it, to destroy the competition. The sugar
that was alcohol, the sugar that was sex, the sweet taste
of every conquest. How despicable I suddenly am
to myself. Only the misspellings are endearing,
those phonetic, understandable, forgivable mistakes.

by Paul Hostovsky

Editor’s Note: This poem focuses on nostalgia with imagery that any older reader will understand, but it’s not until the last three lines that one realizes how much compassion is necessary in order to dull the sharpness of memory.


5 responses to “Letters from Camp by Paul Hostovsky”

  1. Larry Schug Avatar

    I’ve always liked what I’ve read from Paul Hostovsky. This poem is the perfect blend of nostalgia and a look back with honest eyes and self-scrutiny.

  2. Ralph Culver Avatar

    Fine poem

  3. Annis Cassells Avatar

    A poem that hits home. Thank you.

  4. Nancy Smiler Levinson Avatar

    I’m crazy wild about this poem. ‘Tis a winner!
    Not only that. . . Paul Hostovsy is a new find for me!
    Most of my poetry and cnf work in past years is about illness and death. Enough already.
    As of today, Paul, you and your joyful eye, ear, and heart brightly light my way.

  5. Joyce Avatar

    Terrific, insightful poem – and serendipitously-timed, as I’ve just unearthed a similar box of cards and letters. Well done, Paul!

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