Paul Hlava describes the series “Negotiations” as a collage of “language, metaphors and quotes, from managers, workers and management flyers” that were used during the process by which his employer, Kaplan International Colleges, “became the first for-profit language school in America to sign a contract under union representation.” Below you can listen to and read a poem, called “Kia,” from the series.

Paul Hlava reads “Kia”


By Paul Hlava

We are here because your choice is ours to explain with clarity and truth trust me some people are so ill-informed have you tried the food it’s really quite bready I want more I want more people say like my son with frosting on his chin his eyes like a dune-buggy I love to see his chubby cheeks full of cake he’s so alive do you have children tell me who are the leaders on your end of the table and what do they want for themselves you see no one thinks how the beginning becomes the center the ball of dough kneaded outward with gentle pats of the fingertips only to be cooked torn apart and your piece is no piece when the little people descend with muddy hands please take a second or third are you thirsty I insist in the light of this room everything looks so dull the beige tables beige rug what a great place to learn of course we know what you want what we can promise is nothing and nothing will rise if what makes it rise is distributed unevenly what suffers if the center is too dense is the weakest parts their tiny hands

Paul Hlava’s poems have appeared in Narrative, BOMB, the Los Angeles Times and PEN America, among other publications. He also was named a Best New Poet 2012 by Matthew Dickman, earned a 2013 Poets House fellowship and has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize. Hlava received an MFA from New York University.

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