poems by Rena J. Mosteirin

Blog Archive

Sunday, September 30, 2007

September 11, 2007

It’s taken me six years to get to the new city. Chicago
is my lover waiting at home at the end the day. I have a new home
and a new name. Cursing the years I spent in a coma on the couch in Queens
as the blue light of dawn crept in, after being afraid all night. New York is nothing
to me just dim days of traps and terror alerts. New York
wanted me to stay with him but I am a master of escape.

I still have a black thumb-sized bruise on my arm from where New York pulled,
said my old name, spit in my face.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Poetry Class

The terribly closeted homosexual poet to my left nods
vigorously when I speak of Henry Adams. I bet Henry was a top.
But that’s not what I’m saying in class, I am talking about chaos,
which makes me think of James, and also I think about Clover Adams,
Henry’s sweet wife who killed herself.

James gives tours at the Saint Gaudens sculpture garden
in Cornish, New Hampshire. He explains
that the Adams memorial has no gender, no name, and he gives
possible reasons for Clover’s suicide.

One theory is that she didn’t get to attend Harvard
like Henry and the rest of the boys.
I don’t buy it.
No, no, darling, I say,
Had she gone to Harvard, she might have done it sooner.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

said the 100 million-year-old bee

I knew right away what kind of trap it was.
I knew the words goldblood and moltonmiddle
because I had seen amber before. I had known others like me
too old to escape this yellow melt. I didn’t know
if there was still a moon,
I expected to be ash in the morning.
I remember wondering
Will I wet-rot inside this rock, and
When do I begin again?

This was inspired by a discovery at Oregon State.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Says the Body

You wake up sore and alone.
You are embarrassed. You want to go home,
but it’s so early that there’s no line at the breakfast place
and you want a good cup of coffee
so you go in and sit down at the counter, head down.

You see the pretty ceiling tile designs reflected in the coffee,
they shift as your hands shake.
On the counter is a newspaper, the story on the front page says the body
of the boy who had been missing was found by neighbors in the woods.
It appears to have been suicide.

Outside the window it is springtime
and the flower petals float down all white and pink and wonderful.
You are ten years old again, in the car with your mother
driving home from mass on Sunday morning.
The petals come down from the trees like soft pink blown kisses,
like Jesus is making big snowflakes in the springtime, just for you.

Monday, September 24, 2007

August Monarchs

Heavy garlic smells fly
from the little pizza place on the corner
to where I sit alone
in a coffee shop courtyard with fine parking-lot views.
You asked me not to smoke today.
Just try it, you said. And I try.

A dirty stranger sits at my table.
I am salty and blue, he says
and French- for five dollars, just
hoping to get a couple of good days
between the yellow lines
on the trail of books and hooks.

I drink my coffee, still not smoking
with this man who smells and talks crazy. I watch him
as he moves carefully, as he washes
in waves of garlic and sunshine.
Yes, it could be the library’s fault, sending
out boxes of guts and midsections, he said. You know,
the other day, every time I stopped, all
these big orange butterflies would land on me.
He pulls a black and gold butterfly gingerly
out of his grimy pocket. He blows on it and
it flies towards the pizza place on the corner
like a miracle. Maybe it likes garlic.
I offer him a cigarette and he very politely declines,
he says he's recently quit. He soberly advises me to do the same.

Thursday, September 20, 2007


I can still smell the hiker-sleep, earthy and wet on hot
summer nights, on the old cloth couch
in the room with the walls were painted with trees
and music. I started out on the wings
of the large unshaven one, he blinks around
like a butterfly that could kill you, he tells me
the size of this country and the size of my foot are the same
he tells me sometimes it takes the Trail to change where you are going,
Only to find everyone is just passing through
and freedom is the music you make alone.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Jesus Don’t Talk Suicide

Jesus wanted to die
he just didn’t talk about it like that,

he waited to be nailed to the warm wood and in the meantime he invited painters
to large lavish last suppers, he multiplied the fishes and made the wine.

I’ve had many patients who thought they were Jesus.
Isn’t everyone Jesus? I thought that was the point.

Monday, September 17, 2007

The Clock in Flashing

Power went out again, when we were out
getting drunk with the woman I sometimes wish was my mother.
I sat at her table thinking that I had all my mother’s flaws,
and saying cliché things like I’ll drink to that.

Tonight it’s probably best not to know what time it is.
Just to let Bob Dylan play and pretend I am writing with a pencil
while in reality I type drunkenly and look longingly at you, I can’t
pretend that I am more interested in writing this poem by touching
these plastic-clicking lap-top letters instead of touching your warm

body and pulling you to me but darling, after we die, and no one
touches us warm, after our flesh is burned and wind-blown,
will anyone know what I feel like tonight, if I don’t write it?

Tonight we had dinner with Cynthia and
almost ran out of gas on the way home,
tonight the power went out and came back.
I understand the confine of time, says
the clock in flashing it’s green numbers at us
like the numbers know I must stop writing
in favor of drunkenly touching you and hoping
that this little poem will keep us here forever.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Me and Mike’s Ghost

I went to an audition for a voice-over role
in an animated movie about animals. I just sat in an auditorium
with a bunch of people and then my parents showed up out of nowhere
and I covered my eyes and made signs of disgust.

Of course they got upset and left
and then we were outside of the auditorium talking.
I hadn’t had time to audition, but someone came out with a cast list
and told me to get one. My character’s name was Rena.

When I saw Mike, he came to sit next to me
but only if I promised not to touch him with my hands.
He pressed himself into my side. I am sure Mike is still there,
but I don’t remember where that is anymore,
and what's worse, none of this really happened,

it was just
all the doors in my head opening up at the same time.
It was just
a room in a mental hospital.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Seeing Each Other

This poem was published in the Stonefence Review this past Spring, but I wrote it in 2004.

Seeing Each Other

The TV was too loud when you stopped breathing.
Your little sister couldn’t sleep. Your mother broke down
the door in the morning, two years ago. Your mother
found you, plastic bag closed
tight to your head and whipped cream canisters leaking
onto the carpet. You died laughing.

My stubborn love
makes a new sense for you,
like eyesight I know
you’ve been watching me swim summers
down the river, under the bridge, and older
then you ever were.

You saw the little black dress
I described when they asked the inevitable
What were you wearing?
I hadn’t slept with anyone
since you. I kept my vigil.

That night, almost exactly two years after your death, you watched.
That’s the problem with heaven. You were the only witness
when I was on my back and begging him to stop.

I know you saw because I saw you die again.

Friday, September 14, 2007

To New York

for Marc

To you I travel south seven train-hours.
Another train passes close, carrying limestone north,
on its side it says NO PRESSURE RELIEF DEVICE
in my handwriting. I catch seconds-worth of seeing
houses growing next to the track,
a tree crooked from the constant vibration
a fence broken and never repaired
a lost cow, heavy and alone.
I catch the seconds in between, over
and over. I write you what I am growing into,
What I need and what I’ve taken.
Everything heavy has a name and
what I suffer, you suffer too.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

A Woodpile

Well that’s what critics do, he said, and then
I’m hungry. And so we gathered what we had to eat
into the bed with us- raisins, cashews and baby carrots. All stolen
because I put them on my scholarship tab. I won't ever repay it.
But at the store it was all politeness, not like stealing at all
I might have just nudged things from the shelf to my purse and crept out
like last week, I stole a green scented candle from Lucille Clifton’s powder room.
The candle said Citrus and Sage, in a green glass jar and
I was sure Lucille had not gone to the store to get it, or
unwrapped it as a birthday present because it wasn’t really Lucille’s house,
but a mansion owned by Dartmouth that she was staying in.
It seemed like that made the stealing okay as I zipped it into my big orange purse
and thought about going home and lighting it
with my lover’s gold tipped matches
he got at a smoke-shop by Harvard, one day when he was feeling hopeful.
I never touched the match tip to the wick
because a boy on the third floor of my house had been filling his room
with garbage for weeks, cutting up his hands, talking about
cold fusion and global warming and compost. He smoked
too much weed, and it seemed to me like he might set the house on fire.
I went to see him and spent an hour cleaning his room while he trembled
in the corner with his rolling papers and marijuana crumbs. This is just
a symptom, I said, of your nervous breakdown. He nodded.
But maybe you’ll have an easier time of it in a clean room.
So I took away the trash and mopped and scrubbed. I disinfected
until the smell of rot and three-day-eggshell perfume was gone.
Do you have, like, any candles? And it did smell bad, still.
So I gave away Lucille’s candle and left
the third-floor psychotic there in a cloud of stolen sage
and citrus scent bundled in his comforter in the corner.
I went back to my room, to the soft wool
of my lover’s body and he told me the charred wood
in the fireplace looked too long- I should have cut them shorter
it’s dangerous propping them up like that and setting them on fire
like maybe I would be the one to burn the house down.
I explained about stealing the sawhorse
from the frat next door, one night last week when there was no heat.
I broke it with my hands and burned it, using a bundle
of chopsticks from the school cafeteria as kindling.
He said he knew a woodpile
we could steal from tonight. Then I climbed on top of him, faced
his very darkest patch and poured honey on him. I licked and watched
him grow in my wet mouth, pulled him through
my legs and he came in, pressing me on top of the sheets
I never wash and never seem dirty.
When we were done, he spread himself out next to me
and curling up to my back, he said
Do you know the Spanish word for spring? Primavera?
That’s how I feel right now- primavera.
And I remembered how last spring, fresh out of the mental hospital
I would go to poetry readings all over New York and yell obscenely loud praise:
I kept doing this and people began to talk about me
poets learned my face and stopped me on the street. They loved it.
Don’t doubt yourself lover, Harvard will read your work
and steal you away from Dartmouth like I stole Lucille Clifton’s candle.
Oh how you love me like springtime,
though everything outside is frozen and mean.

at least you don't scream for buttermilk every day like G-man

(roughly 2 years of e-mails written to my by my brother, woven together to make a poem)

Last night I got ass-high out in the front with Rummy
and then watched Wu-Tang Invasion on the laptop.
I was standing under the tree and the cat got onto
the branch right over my head and started attacking.
That's the most enjoyment I’ve gotten out of that creature in years.
The flowers on the tree are really nice. An old European
man stopped yesterday to admire them. He didn't
speak any English but managed to explain to me anyhow that
he was impotent and could no longer have sex- mostly
using hand gestures. I'm contemptuously pessimistic regarding Lauren
and females in general. Must go for my daily walk now.
I somewhat enjoy those, at least it's gorgeous out.
I feel like the entire house is a cathode ray worship temple.
at any given time, at least one bright
blue inferno is slow-roasting the family soul.
At least you don't scream for buttermilk every day like G-man.
When I was a freshman in college I used to go to the dining hall and fill
up a glass 25% with Hershey's goo and the rest with milk. Suck it down
like there was no tomorrow. I don't know why I bothered
adding the milk. Ray got rejected from the American Express job
he's been trying to get for months so it's back to weed for him.
The cityscape is not exciting me as much as it used to lately. I think
my ocean of appreciation has been polluted
by the feeling that it's not ok to be economically idle anymore.
Saw the dentist today - old guy with a white fro.
Asked if I played soccer - i said no.
Said my teeth looked smashed-in. i said oh.
All this after talking to me about god and children and mouth biology
for one straight hour (there were polish ladies in the waiting room,
loudly turning magazine pages). He wanted to drill
my teeth down cause they're jagged. I refused
the procedure on the grounds that I get enough natural grinding.
I go to Benninger park and do pull-ups on the playground structure.
the little kids crowd around and say "Whoa, do you
take steroids?" and then they all boast generously and try
to pull themselves up. It felt nice to be in a crowd
of little kids today. They wanted to see my
arm muscles. There was the little kid area and an old man area –
dozen or so non-English speakers crowded around 2 or three
tables playing dominos and shit.
Maybe I’ll crash their party too sometime.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007


At five years old, I went to Florida with my family and wanted
a plastic dolphin keychain. My mother wouldn’t
buy it; she thought it was just flashy junk.
Flanked by glossy fins, back perfectly arched,
belly rounded up, it jumped, glittering.

When I left you woke up.
I went downstairs and microwaved two freezer spring rolls.
As I sucked out all the warm salty mush,
the outside turned to cardboard. Going back,
the door to our room was open and you were wide awake.

You stayed awake until I fell asleep.
I slept on my belly with my chin pressing
one of your safe arms
and with the other, you rubbed my fins.

It was two in the morning then and when you left
at six for your long commute, you reset the alarm clock
and kissed my face all over like you couldn’t help it,
and left me quietly that happy morning as
my pink plastic dolphin heart jumped from dream to dream.

Monday, September 10, 2007

She Was Sure

This was first published in Untamed Dartmouth's 3rd Wave Feminist Publication in the Fall of 2006. (When we were trying to come up with a name for the publication, I wanted to call it Cameltoe, but no one liked my suggestion.)

She Was Sure

She was sure she saw
in the soap bubbles of the dishes.
Sure God was there
in the vacuum’s lines across the floor.
God-sure in
the mango ice cream scooped out orange
for the kids in small bowls,
one scoop each. She was sure.

She saw God everywhere,
knew what she needed to see and
could not leave her bed with so much
God dazzling her eyes, this
Mother full of grace,
this Mother full.

She called the priest to come
and her children did not know why
Mommy stopped doing the dishes.

She stayed in bed sure
despite her husband,(he had an orange pill bottle:
For the treatment of seeing God
in bed all day and
because all night long awake
you know everything.)

She was sure sent
from God everywhere
until the kids came, scared.
Mom, we need you.
Take please pills from these crying hands now.
Forever and ever,
till kingdom come.

Now she does the dishes everyday.
Gets out of bed at six every morning
and swallows pills.
Goes to church on Sunday but never
talks to God. Sings in the choir
but doesn’t remember
when she was sure.
She was so sure.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

For The Snow Man

Please see The Snow Man by Wallace Stevens.

For The Snow Man

by Rena Mosteirin

Behold the poems as they come up
Waterlogged and distant, slapping and surfacing to breathe
In the September sun;
I do not see any other way

To regard the ocean’s rough lace and whale-swish-spray;
Their sound is the sound of lungspace
Full of need for oxygen, for a few words repeating;

These mornings alone with my empty horizon,
I do not see any other way.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Dead End Columbus

By Rena Mosteirin

My grandmother was born on the fourth of July, she
passed her mental illness down to my mother
but cut her out of the will. I was born
with my mother’s paranoia. My birthday is the day
after Flag Day. But no one cares about Flag Day.

People like Memorial Day
because they get to take off from work to remember.
I saw a car license plate that said prisoner of war in small letters
all stacked up on each other to the right side of the license plate numbers.

A prisoner somewhere in this state made that license plate
and I wonder if he felt an affinity for the person
who had been a prisoner in another country’s method of chains
and locks and stone and metal and wood and water and windows.

I am a slave-ship even though I want to be an explorer.
If I was on the ship with Christopher Columbus
I would have told him: this isn’t India.
Then there would be no Native genocide
and no Columbus day.

I would have whispered into the sea-wind;
America is a dead end, Columbus.
I want to go home.
But you know Columbus wouldn’t have listened.

If I was the Santa Maria nailed
together and broken and fixed again
I might try to hit the shore too hard
for my hull to handle, and I would split
right down the middle, I’d
Crack and bloody all my wood bones
Pop my nails out
and as the water came in the windows
and I started my stone-sink to the bottom
and all the sailors took planks
for themselves, I would show them fireworks
and I would sing them pain.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Spam Poems

When I was Cynthia Huntington's TA I asked the class consider
the poetry of spam e-mails. We read spam aloud. It was brilliant and boring and everything spam tends to be. Favoring the absurd, such as Reuters scrambles over the ones which boasted Viagra-style-enhancement, I came up with some poems that I wrote using no lines of my own, just lines from spam e-mails I received. Two of these are in my thesis. Can you guess which two?

Best USA pharmacy discounts

We will help you be the best with your girlfriends
Anna Nicole Smith and Britney Spears
our present for your health
your own Confidential purchase Oscars race
as a roadside bomb strikes a civilian car
while countless others were wounded in a car bomb attack
by U.S. military. The Academy Awards are such a favorite,
When you make a sporting event out of killing the nominees
to draw attention to the U.S. military standard procedure
since at the border yesterday at least three civilians were killed.
The military's statement on Saturday, that
Mr. al-Hakim was not singled out.
The vehicles met specific criteria for death
Mr. al-Hakim was not singled out
for his performance in Little Miss
Sunshine say broad-based US terrorists
during Saturday morning raids.
The military's statement on women and children will be
hosted by Ellen DeGeneres, who neither conducts operations nor detains people.
U.S. military troops arrested Mr. al Hakim who said
the 79th Academy Awards will air
in the southeastern Baghdad district
30 minutes later. In a separate incident
five civilians were killed and six security detail after a trip in Iran
U.S. Embassy on Friday said what al-Hakim wins for is
"Volver" and Iraq and war-torn Iran and the United States and the award for
Widespread and incoherent ladenspelling, terrors publicist.
the award goes to
Widespread and incoherent binladen spellingerrors errorist.
and the death toll is

Sea Lions Banned in the United States

Oregon, Washington and Idaho
applied last year for federal permission to kill
some of the more troublesome California sea lions,
saying they have exhausted their options;

The relationships between the people of this country
and the more troublesome California sea lions
have been marred by centuries of discord, conflict, hurt and tragedy.

Sea lions were called
thugs with no soul
at a Capitol Hill news conference on Friday.

The same tactics have flopped in the past
against the sea lions, who, like the manatees,
are federally protected and seem to know it.

Sea lions to plead the Fifth before Senate panel
reports Reuters from the sidelines of a conference in Portland.

Almost no one on the panel supports the idea
that the materials the seal lions deleted were vital
to the task of parsing out their evil-doing.
The sea lions who do know deny everything.

Mail In Your Payment Today

Continuing his inspection, he produced a piece of pork fat,
a packet of herring, butter wrapped in wax-paper, and about two dozen hard-boiled eggs.
Each month, 50,000 Iraqis flee their country.
Let them set the chafing-dish upon the floor, and go.

The hissing soon stopped.
You have zero width and height,
in springtime next to grass and moss.
Mail in your immediate bipartisan solution today.

He did not like the idea of being sold for such a high price.
It's all loose ends. Mail in your payment today.
I waited until the steam-demon drew a bead on me.
Not human hair, but actual pelts, resembling in various patches
jaguar, tiger, bison, zebra, and polar bear, among others, in a crazy patchwork.

Some are forced out of their homes by armed men, while
faintness constraineth me to measure out my length on this cold bed.
Let them see my face.

These Bones

At ten she began her television
punkd and poprocked
denied her cocaine calling
wildlife in west hollywood still spending
obscured her diamond mind
heavily partied made bogus
excused actions suffered and fashioned
licensed copyrighted detailed trademarked
rises triumphant, the recovered bulimic-
these bones, queens of hot wild, don't need a boyfriend.

Thursday, September 6, 2007


This poem was published in the Fall 2006 Stonefence Review and referenced in the Dartmouth Alumni Magazine in an article around the same time.


by Rena Mosteirin

We can look at pictures of your brain
together, you said,

but I got a strong drink
instead of keeping my MRI appointment.

Mike’s death was made of glass
I can see clear through it

to the silent middle nightmareplace
in the middle of the night.

Girls are bad at math, except lesbians.
Being bad at math costs too much.

Being a woman costs too much,
I’m not going to buy any of it anymore.

We’re all on payroll, but you darling have everything
white-man-worth and young and you.

I am worth less-- a woman of
mixed blood-- half-Cuban, half-crazy.

Today you went to see
about your car- the one you can’t afford anymore.

I don’t care what it looks like, I tell you.
But some nights you watch me change my clothes five times;

This looks stupid…This looks stupid…
Does this make me look fat?

(No darling, I say, no one is allowed in for a look at my brain.
Let’s live heavy and uncertain.)

I don’t want to know what’s wrong,
please don’t let that mean we will always be afraid.

When my favorite homeless man, who goes by Waterhead
stopped me on 14th street and 3rd avenue and asked

why I was crying
I just kept walking.

When Mike died in the middle of the night, I was 19.
I can learn how to live on the other side watching, but why?

His wintrydead lips
kiss brokenglass sharp.

Later on that afternoon I felt bad for ignoring Waterhead
and I sat beside him on the warm subway grate

that lifts his meaty and old stale marijuana smoke smell
above the cold sidewalk. He asked me if I wanted to get high

and I said, No, and then I said Waterhead, what do you want?
What do you really want, more than anything?

He puffed a little on his joint to get it started,
and smiled and said strawberrymilk
and we sat there in the pink glow of the word.

When I got home to you darling, we climbed
up the ladder to the roof and I thought (like I always do) about jumping

(it has to look like an accident or else
everyone will blame themselves)

as you smoked a joint beside me and asked where
I wanted to go to dinner.

How about a hungerstrike?
How can we eat darling?

(Tell me how to taste the bread
baked in the ovens this war keeps hot)

and wouldn’t you like
me better if I stopped eating?

But Sally my psychiatrist says,
Rena, you must let yourself

have this relationship,
so instead I say,

Baby, what do you really want?
What do you really want, more then anything?

and you smoked that joint hard, frowning
into your exhales and then you answered;

I want to be there for you in the middle
of the night. And if I can't be, I want
you to not feel so much sadness and loss.

The sun was going down
and we sat there in the pink glow of the world.