poems by Rena J. Mosteirin

Blog Archive

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Bomb Hat

Walking up Fifty-Third street on Halloween
towards the bank, happy because I just bought tickets
on-line to go home to New York for Christmas,
I came upon a man who was getting dressed for a bomb.

There were plastic yellow police lines strung around like
Christmas lights might be next month and I stopped
next to a guy on his bike who told me that there was a “suspicious package”
in Nichols Park and we laughed. Who does Chicago think it is? New York? Please.
The cop was carefully adding bomb-proof layers.

The best layer was his hat, which looked like one of the
old-school diving hats that Jacques Cousteau might have worn
to go underwater. A bulb for the head, with a hole
where a tube for oxygen might go in. It struck me as funny

that his outfit was camouflage-color
like if he could sneak up on the suspicious package,
it would turn out to be a purse or maybe some groceries.
I went to the bank and forgot about it, instead I thought about

what to have for dinner, and I carefully avoided the park
on my way back down Fifty-Third. I went to Hyde Park Produce
I got a bag of Honey Crisp Apples and some soymilk and left laughing
cause one of the guys who works there was wearing a Freddie Krueger mask

and said something funny to me in Spanish. I left thinking
about how nice it will be to eat the apples, and then I heard the explosion
from the park, and my first thought was the bomb hat
and what it feels like to be twenty-thousand leagues under the sea.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Mouth Full of Brooklyn

I am surprised first by my wet sneakers when the sea comes up cold to wake us.
And then by your tattooed torso and how you kiss with a mouth full of Brooklyn.

Mornings when you are not here I go straight down to the cold ocean of memories.
Mornings when you are not here the sun shines on your place in my bed.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Amherst Aubade

My sister mowed me
with a garden hoe
you say, when I lightly stroke

the pink scar below your nose.
You have the softest hands that have ever touched my face.
Don’t tell me it’s morning,
I will not go.

Friday, October 26, 2007

That type of translation

I saw an animal flattened on the sidewalk
there were no face-parts. Nothing
to identify it, just the awful colors
blood turned brown and dust grey of fur or wings.
It might have been a bird or a squirrel.
Soon it will be the non-color of concrete.
It will dissolve after negotiations with feet and rain.
It reminds me of what the city does to snow
of what the city will do with me.
I can’t survive that type of translation.

I used to think the moon was made of pure sugar
in the days when I didn’t try to understand death.
I remember watching meteor showers sure
that the stars were throwing themselves at each other
because they were in love. Mike was dying
and sugar was glittering wickedly in the sky.

Haven’t gotten out of bed in a while. If I could get
to a planet just six light-years away
and I could make a telescope to see the Earth
and America and Long Island and I looked
so close that I could see Mike kissing me six years ago,
then I would get out of bed. The surface of the city
vibrates with death. I can’t.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Dead End Columbus*

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, people like war.
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.
There should not be a Columbus day.
If I was on the ship with Christopher Columbus, I would have told him

This isn’t India.
I would have whispered into the sea-wind
America is a dead end, Columbus.
But you know Columbus wouldn’t have listened.

If I was the Santa Maria, I might purposely 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.

*In September I posted a version of this poem. This is the latest draft.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Observations at the Amherst Museum

If I were this dead old mammoth’s mother
I might not like this museum. All the skeletons seem male and functional.

Behind me are very old nuts behind glass—
butternuts, beech nuts, hickory nuts, choke cherry pits, scarlet oak acorns.

There’s a little girl here in the museum who squeezes her father’s hand
because she wants to climb the mammoth’s bones and he won't let her go.

If I was her mother
I might say something stupid to her like—
Race you to the tusk!

and give her bottom a little push
hoping she got to the top before anyone noticed

and yelled at us. I am not the mammoth’s mother.
I am not anyone’s mother. I am the little girl pulling your hand.

Friday, October 19, 2007

What To Have for Breakfast

My brother just wanted to smoke pot in the kitchen
and ride out the rest of his acid trip in the pre-dawn Sunday gray light alone.

He got a pack of cigarettes on the way home
and then he sat in his old car in the driveway marveling at the green-apple glass
windshield and the softness of the creased seat and the glow of all the gauges
on the dashboard. He felt waxy and his car smelled
overwhelmingly of taco bell, bong water and tobacco.

My mother sat in the kitchen chainsmoking, waiting
for the valium to kick in. She kept the lights off
so she could get tired. She had already dressed for church and
put all the dishes away, read the only magazine she liked
and polished her long dry fingernails. The cat had killed
a cockroach by the oven and my mother accepted it as a present
and let it sit with her in the gray smoky beginnings
of a Sunday she was hoping to sleep through.

She assumed my brother was home
was surprised to see headlights, he did not notice her
at first, but he saw the cockroach and thought it was alive
and stepped on it. “It was already dead,” my mother said
and he looked at her and looked at the floor and lit a cigarette
and sat down. There was nothing else
he could do, he later said, but talk to her.

Mother, your fires burn the coal oceans orange. Yes, somewhere
a tree in California is calling your name with fruit and with women
who have put their hands in the fire for diamonds
like you, they sit with death in gray smoke clouds
with red nails and a bowl of fresh fruit on the table
they drop ash on the floor to give themselves something to sweep.

Insomnia means swimming in strong, sad glass, he explained later.
It’s like trying to pick leaves off a plastic plant.

I came into the kitchen where my mother and brother sat
smoking cigarettes and crying. The sun was coming up. I found
some pancake mix, nothing fancy, it was
the just-add-water kind. "Hello you," she said
as though it were the middle of the afternoon
and the most important question was what to have for breakfast.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Winter Squash Blues

Hello winter shelves, hello white snow fields
hello winter squash keeping my underground cellar full
I could live on food and blues and rainstorms
real rainstorms, springtime rotten--
it’s just you and the flowers, still
covered over. Hello spring- so soon?
The soil said start and I saw you, new squash, still
a baby learning to see the sun and catch it and take it
so in the winter you will be full of summer sun
you will be my dew-drinking springtime, powering me through the snow, oh
Goodbye winter, I need some time
to think about things. Spring please tell me
how warm the grass can feel and I will hide under the wide
brim of squash leaves as they grow
it’s cool under there, with your yellow blossoms and the bugs
I will hide here until the end of the summer
makes the air hurt cold, I don’t know
what will happen so until then, wrap your roots
and vines around me, feed me through the winter.
Will you look at me like fall looks to change colors
autumn can make us look like devils.
Hello sweet orange flesh, do you miss soil? Oh
getting picked seemed nice, but after growing, dying comes, it
gives me the winter squash blues in September again when
every pumpkin hungry Halloween girl is in the fields and the tangerine flowers
once hidden and lidded by cool leaves close to the soil, stomped on now
the fruit is already grown, I know you winter squash will still be young till
October or November and shine from the inside not because of carving and candles
or children eating pocket-warm candy celebrating
a flickering face of jagged teeth and triangled eyes
you will shine with your own squash soul
like you did as a seed in the soil
when you promised to feed me through winter and
I kissed you with rain, poking holes in the ground for air
and calling down to you
hello hello hello

Friday, October 12, 2007


If I’m lucky, hell is just hot, hot sunsets
and maybe a little breezy. Maybe
It’s nothing more than memory loss
like all the important papers blowing away in the wind.
It’s not a violent electric loss, if I’m lucky,
it’s something more like flight. Memories migrating away
like geese when it starts to get chilly out. Watch me
polish the traumas, even when they won’t let me sleep.
I give them over, you remove the teeth one by one,
then the claws and fur, trying to give me a happy ending.
My memories already make a migration away from me yearly.
Heaven, when I’m lucky, is like driving in a mossy fog
on the highway, so dense I can’t see the poles of the streetlights,
just their bright heads and they give me a dim glimpse
of the road in front of me, until the next poem lights up
another little bit and then the next poem and then the next.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007


buy a gun for love.
trade the gun for food.
sell the love for sleep.

shoot into the rainy sunrise.
sleep alone in the morning rain hungry, until

violent dreams wake you with their breath.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Sunday Brunch

Great Aunt Sophie tells me I needn't
worry about my grades because
I'll get married as soon as I get out of college,
and then I'll live in a big house in a nice neighborhood,

while my father talks incessantly about strippers.
Strippers are very smart.
Strippers make so much money-- you’d be surprised.
Strippers would make better psychiatrists
than the two I am currently seeing at Payne-Whitney Manhattan.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Eggs Expensive

My eyes were blue and mom wasn’t so mad
no one was so mad. They wrapped me in a cloth
and I sat on a sandy road for a long time thinking.

The road was wide and it had vendors on either side.
The cloth was the color of the ocean with silver spangles.
I had a feeling I had been there before,
naked but for the cloth, holding things in my arms like
my blue yoga mat and a chakra map.

If I have a teacher here, they will know me by sight.
But for a long time no one knew me.
Then my best friend Marisa was there
and she was talking about the place we stayed at in Mexico.
I was saying they had a nice full breakfast included, but
she said, “It was just eggs expensive, don’t you think?”

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Taking a Vacation to California at Christmastime

Mike, you found me (you always find me, everywhere)
strolling down a warm street in Santa Barbara
the week after Christmas with my new fiancé.
The street was called MICHAEL TORENA BLVD.
but I read it as a giftname, like a marriage of the words
Michael to Rena. Like my happiness
is a gift from you. I still have
the dream I had the night you decided to leave
your body. There was a fishpond in the front yard, with a lone goldfish
whose one sad eye stayed on us as he circled.
Behind him was the house we had always wanted,
a small house with big windows full of yellow light in the evening.
And I know you remember what happened when I woke
from that dream and found your simple note:

I forgive you.
I love you.
I’m sorry.

Remember how I wanted to die too?
You come in my dreams now, you tell me dying
is like going away on a boat for millions of days.
So pray your self a shipwreck, I say. Maybe you will like building
from nothing, better then you like being lost at sea.
You miss your shoes. You miss your make-up.

My love never ends darling,
your death never stops being true.
You can't take your suicide back,
but letting me go is the least you can do.

(Oh my darling Mike, is it still all pain?)

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Complicated Grief

We can’t go on like this, caged
cause the car won’t start
and there’s going to be storms tonight.

Maybe it’s not cold enough to stand
on the river ice yet but if I fall
from winter to where you are
there won’t be any mouths
any voices to call me crazy.

Ghost so bright, I can’t look directly at you
you are the color of sunshine
you make me blindcrazy.
Your love is the best thing I’ve ever seen.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Love Poem

Green Rock Publications is featuring some of my poems.

Click on a title to see them.

I put To New York on the blog a while back, but it looks so much cooler when Green Rock does it. They also have a poem of mine called Love Poem but for some reason there is a typo on their page, so I am going to give you that poem right here, right now, without the error.

Love Poem

You, my love, are coming
closer (like manifest destiny)
in this room, in this old New England town
(full of hundred-year old dust and Mayflower families)
where it is always winter.

The band is playing too loud, you move
towards me (to overspread this continent)
and I stand on the other side
a far away and wild California.
Discover me, I smile
a gold rush. The truth is I can’t move

I am stuck in quiet scary cycles of
feverish family secrets
keeping me awake and alone
at night. The truth is,

I am mentally ill and
you look like glory.
The truth is, everything winter always
comes back to spring.