poems by Rena J. Mosteirin

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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.

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