The Conversations of Men by Paul Hostovsky

My girlfriend says she would like to be a fly

on the wall between two urinals.

“What would I overhear?” she asks me.


I tell her the last time a man spoke to me

above a urinal, I think he said, “How about them Bruins?”


“And what did you say in return?” she wants to know.


I say I didn’t know what to say because

I don’t know anything about hockey,

and I didn’t watch the game or even know

there was one. But I didn’t want him

to know that.


So I think I said, “Goddamn!”

because it sounded heartfelt yet noncommittal,

because he may or may not have been a Bruins fan,

and because the Bruins may or may not have won,

and because he was trying to make contact

with his gender, and if I said I didn’t see the game,

or if I said I didn’t follow hockey or don’t

give a shit about the Bruins, he would probably

feel like he hadn’t made contact. And I would feel

less of a man.


So I said, “Goddamn!” and he said

“Unbelievable!” and shook his head in approval,

or maybe it was disapproval – it was hard to tell, I tell her,

because the whole thing was more or less peripheral.


Paul Hostovsky is the author of nine books of poetry, most recently, Is That What That Is (FutureCycle Press, 2017). His poems have won a Pushcart Prize, two Best of the Net awards, and have been featured on Poetry Daily, Verse Daily, and NPR’s The Writer’s Almanac. Website:

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10 thoughts on “The Conversations of Men by Paul Hostovsky”

  1. There’s a whole lot packed into this poem. First, the need to say something to someone peeing next to you; second, having that taken as a need to make contact with your gender; and third, feeling an inadequate response makes you less of a man. And sports – the universal male language – was the perfect vehicle for all three because it could say everything or nothing.

    That said, I very much liked the poem because it confirmed all my suspicions and because it was fun and well done.

    1. I’ve read your poems, Ama, and know you as a skilled poet, so this compliment is high praise.
      Thank You for your kind words. I’ll forward them to Paul Hostovsky.

  2. I went to a Boston Bruins hockey game several years ago. After the second period, I headed off to the men’s room only to find a long line of guys waiting for a open spot in front of an equally long row of urinals. When I finished, I heard the guy next to me zipping up and remarking with a mixture of expectation for the future and nostalgia for the past, “Sure hope I got the right one back”.

  3. Yes, worth a chuckle. I’ve never been particularly interested in sports, but while working at a large company (as a middle manager), I always scanned the sports page headlines of my morning paper “just in case” I got pulled into a sports-related exchange.

    When a coworker said, “how about them Giants!” I was able to respond, “What a game!” (or something similar, but carefully non-committal). Fortunately, we never had to get into any detail about these things.

    1. I watch the big games, playoffs, superbowls, etc. whether or not the “home team” is involved, for the same reason, Pete. If my guy friends talk about it the next day, I want to be able to relate.

  4. Beautiful poem. At my age, connecting would more likely be an acknowledgement of how difficult it is to pee

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