poems by Rena J. Mosteirin

Blog Archive

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

First Snow

I am all foot-stomping
and slender, eating fresh fruit
while my father shoots crabs on the beach.
The whole ocean is in pain.
My flowers blossom white and big as a cake.

I slice cakes covered with powdered sugar like snow
after yoga. Do you know
the whole time I practice yoga
I try to forget how much I want cake?

The first time I saw snow I was afraid to go out of the house.
I still don’t trust it. I make a fresh pot of coffee and my ghosts smile at me.
Touching them makes them melt faster.
The squirrels run up the fire escape.

Abuelo won’t go back to Cuba, even to haunt.
Don’t you know ghosts are only made of rain?

Monday, November 26, 2007

Betty Page, Mary Oliver and the Poolroom

Of course I remember you- you came out of the river naked
that day my friend was having a barbeque at the deep home. You ate an ear of corn raw
and jumped back in the river. You’re the girl who went to Maui,
the girl who broke down after she was raped. You gave speeches
in front of the entire house, you sang and cried after Mark died. We hugged
at his funeral. I once said you looked like Betty Page and you got upset. We
smoked blunts at the White House together on Friday afternoons. I was the one
who always left without saying goodbye. I sent you that e-mail when you went
to the hospital, when you were sick and couldn’t come back to school
so you sent out a poem Wild Geese by Mary Oliver to the graduating seniors—
You do not have to be good, is the first line. I have a picture of you in a rainbow
sarong that you used to wear in the summertime. I found it on the floor in the poolroom,
the room you were raped in. You filled that room with photos and poems afterwards
you made everyone come into the poolroom with you,
we all stood in a circle and held hands.


I put my clothes on in the small sterile bathroom
wrapping my hospital gown into a tight ball in my hands.
It happened last week and I still have abrasions on the inside.
I sit on a cot and sip ginger ale, the nurse fills out the police report.
I wait for the tests to come back. Pregnancy, syphilis, HIV.
The word abrasion has the nails-across-a-blackboard feeling.

I am not angry yet, still too scared to be angry. He wasn’t wearing a condom,
blonde hair and blue eyes, six feet, male, early twenties, didn’t come, at least
not while I was conscious. The police officer in charge
of my case told me that he was printing out the photos I e-mailed
from his printer at home and his daughter came over and saw my rapist
and said he was cute, that he looked like a Backstreet Boy.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Lace and Burn

“On November 13th, 2007 at approximately 11:45 PM, the body of an unknown female victim was found burning in a vacant lot in the 6100 block of South Prairie Avenue…On November 14th, 2007 at approximately 12:51 AM, the body of an unknown female victim was found burning in the rear of the 800 block of East 50th Street.”

-from a “Community Alert” flyer
posted by Area One Detective Division
Alert 610-07-085a
November 14, 2007

We read this Community Alert at the corner store together today.
We buy mouthwash, roach traps, a bar of chocolate. On the walk home
I notice the Christmas trees are out already in the lot by the French restaurant.
Are we going to have a tree? The Victoria’s Secret Christmas catalog came today.
At home I line up my presents and look them over. Good, good, good, good.
I sit down on the couch with the Victoria’s Secret, low-rise, fishnet, glitter and lace—
no no no the pages are burning. I am burning in a dumpster by Harold Washington Park.

The two women who were burned-what sort of bras did they wear? Underwire
must heat up when you are being burned. I take off my bra. Breathe deeply.
A high-school science teacher used to make jokes about women
wearing underwire bras getting electrocuted because the metal attracts lightning.
He liked the excuse to talk about bras, to see our faces, the girls who were wearing
underwire got more flushed then the rest, perhaps. I wonder
if one is more likely to be electrocuted in a freak underwire-bra accident
or burned in a vacant lot. Feminism is about choices—

the Pom-Pom Glitter Babydoll Push-up or the Lace-up Fishnet Thong.
Two unknown female victims. Laced-up and burned-up.
Their deaths seem like Holocaust deaths. Can’t breathe. I look at bras
instead of breathing. Some of the girls look too young to be so naked.
They hold peppermint lollypops. Santa baby pom-pom angels.
I learn from internet-news that the first burning woman was pregnant.

Friday, November 23, 2007


I gave you my beads because I had nothing better to give
when I asked you to marry me. More then a hundred times
a day I thought about Ganesh back then. I asked the wood beads what time it was. Daylight savings time fucked it up but it held my sins so my heart wouldn’t have to.
You live longer that way, Abuela says. Abuela answers my questions strangely,
half in Spanish and very embarrassed of her failing memory.
She calls me by my mother’s name. Oh Abuela, I say with a sigh, I can’t even tell time.

If you ever need luck darling, tell the beads around your neck
by pressing each bead hard till you feel your finger-hearts beating. I must have died
of starvation in a past life because nothing feels so good as being full. Even
when I am alone, I am full of your love. Throwing away an empty carton, I see how
the orange General Tso’s sauce makes rivers at the creases where the white cardboard
folds into itself. I walk in sweatpants and flip-flops. The dead leaves flatten
under my full feet in the New England nighttime. I have a love letter warm in my pocket
from you. I carry it with me everywhere. I stop and re-read
your letter under a streetlight. In this moment my life feels perfect, simple, complete.

Thursday, November 22, 2007


Did I ever thank you for that wonderful breakfast when my feet were cold
because I was wearing my shoes with the holes in them
and you took off your green and white striped socks and put them on my feet?
I wrote a napkin poem that morning at the little hippie breakfast place in Brattleboro,
Vermont complete with stains from the seitan sausage and the cashew French toast.
The poem is about your green and white socks.
I remember it so clearly though it’s a full year and a thousand
miles behind us. There was the time back there in the old life when the rats
in the walls kept me awake all night and you came over with spackle and a flat metal tool
and covered over the hole they were gnawing by the foot of my bed.
Thank you for that. And thank you for the hot dark chocolate milk
you made a few days ago when I didn’t want to get out of bed.
It was like liquid chocolate cake.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Montréal to Manhattan

Remember when you came to the hospital, having walked all the way from Montréal
to Manhattan and then you sat half a day waiting for visiting hours, sitting
outside the door? Remember when you came to the hospital in Vermont
and the doors didn’t matter? You can’t touch anything anymore and no one can see you
but me. I am all cracked now, with crazy glue seams. I dreamed with you last night.
You said, now you’re with him, and you didn’t say his name, but we could both see
me in bed with the man I am going to marry. I asked you if you could see me
all the time and you said yes. Remember that day at the arboretum
when we were standing by that child’s playhouse thinking maybe
we could just go in there forever and be a family? Remember the scary child-sized dolls
who watched you propose? And remember the day you threw all of my shit out
of your car onto Dave’s driveway and drove away? Can you see me typing
this, can you read it, are you that close? Did you see me insist you were still alive
somewhere? Remember when everything I saw was a sign that you were still alive?

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Pasqual and the Angel

Pasqual wraps up marijuana cigarettes in sweet hibiscus flowers
and holds them to the angel’s nose and breathes deeply from the dark clay of night.
Pasqual and the angel blow smoke in between drops of rain,
the rain makes a truck come down the road.

I have to catch a ride back to El Panchen before the road is mud, she says,
her white dress sticks wet, her long arms reach out to the strong
wolf-eyed man who pulls her up, her legs kick out, Pasqual watches, shaman-calm
as the woman in the white dress leaves his hot night flying.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Regresa a mí

“Unbreak My Heart” is playing in Spanish
at this corner coffee shop in Chicago.
It seems very serious and much more beautiful in Spanish
in the middle of the afternoon
with the other unemployeds, some of whom are writers.
We are all heartbroken. We talk in peculiar ways.
What are you up to, godly daughter?
Did the internet destroy the underground?

And then I spill my extra-large soy chai on my laptop.
Unbreak my heart, soy chai!
I say, Fuck! really loud and everyone looks at me.
What would Toni Braxton do?

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Love Poem for Jed

Sunday is visiting day at the correctional facility in Haverhill, New Hampshire.
There is no good Chinese food in that town.
Little New England towns are very proud of their bad Chinese food.
I mistakenly go for the General Tso’s Tofu.
This place is called New Century, it has big cheap chandeliers making green
and purple prisms spin on the walls, like orderly and ugly hallucinations.
If only Kyle and Melissa had gotten busted in Vermont.
Vermont’s drug laws are much less strict.
I should have gone to some small liberal arts college in Vermont.
Jed comes back from a long stay in the bathroom.
I haven’t felt the rumbling yet, but I know it’s coming. We leave quickly.
We have to be on time for visits, or else they won’t let us in.
This morning we visited Kyle and he seemed to be doing OK. He says
they make him wash dishes all day at the old folks home across the street.
He doesn’t get paid but they let him have all the coffee he can drink
and he still has a virgin asshole.
Now it’s evening and it’s time to see Melissa.
Jed and I wait outside in the rain with the other visitors. I recognize
one lady, she sells me cigarettes almost every day at the general store.
She smiles at me, winks, I smile back. We chat in restless short sentences
about who we are going to see and why they are locked up.
Her boyfriend steals cars. My friends sell drugs. No rapes, no murders.
Nothing serious. Haha. Yeah. The guards walk us through
the metal detectors and down to the cement windowless basement.
On the floor there are red lines in tape, about three feet apart.
They stay behind their red line and we stay behind ours.
Jed holds my hand and my stomach begins to make noises.
My smile is mostly misery. I squeeze Jed’s hand, tense up my body.
Melissa starts crying as soon as she sees us. I make it about 20 minutes
before I have to go to the bathroom and the warden tells me
that once I leave I won’t be able to get back in
and I am not allowed to use their bathrooms, so I run out in the rain
to the old folks home, the one where Kyle washes dishes
and I find a toilet and cry. And then I think about Jed and the pretty lemons
he got for me at the Co-op, thinking they were oranges. Dear Jed
it’s hard to write you a love poem with General Tso’s tofu poisoning.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Jesus learns to kiss

He bites off the end of his tongue
almost entirely and kisses my mouth
with the forces of love and hunger.

His tongue tip hangs from a thin strip
in his big mouth, full of his own blood.

He dangles the tip into my mouth
like I should eat it.

Like I should want that.

Monday, November 5, 2007

The Same Sleep

My nails butterknife your back, my chin overtakes
your shoulder, as though
my body could go through yours
and we'd still be traveling in the same direction.

When we close, I face the wall
and you fold in behind me
cupping my body in yours
and we fall into the same sleep.

Friday, November 2, 2007


I got talked out of death by a representative of the program.
A long time ago, back when it was enough for a woman to go to college.

You went to college?
Wow. You know?

We had one computer in our office.
That was a really big deal.

One computer.

Lots of things got done without computers.
They say the Pope- not the new one, the old Polish one

I just saw a show about him on TV—
he never used computers.

The old Pope built his church divinely
you know what I’m saying?

And he always opened every speech like this
Don’t be afraid!

Because people were afraid of God.
He looked like a big baby with those fat cheeks,

fat and red, like a cherub, his whole life.
When babies die they go to heaven right away,

which is where that old Pope is now.
Oh the old Pope was certainly pushed along by God.

Rena, I thought your book was depressing.
I didn’t read the whole thing.

My eyes are getting old and I can’t read so much anymore.
I wake up every day at 4AM and my neighbor said that was old age.

He goes, I don’t care, I’ve been through all of this—
when you wake up and look at the clock, you get up out bed right away.

Don’t stay there! That’s how old people die,
when they stay in bed too long.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Jellyfish in the Estuary

I watch the pink and plum purple jellyfish and wish
they were not here as the sky watches the drink
and everything changes color gradually towards night
on the side of the island without waves, perfect for swimming

in the twilight and also perfect for jellyfish who just want to hang out.
They have no plan, like me. I had trouble staying in college.
I have trouble staying, in general. Remember that very small albino poodle
that you called Samson? I called him Fancy.

You hated that. I count eight miles from here to the tail
of this fish-shaped island, hiding in the shadow of the city.
Remember that night you slept over, kept your clothes on,
the night I faced the wall and you curved your body around mine
like an old catchers mitt? The night you trembled so much
I thought you were crying, but I was too afraid to turn around?

Summer here is the texture of taffy. Today it’s all toothache. Tomorrow it will be all hangover.
I sit on the bluff and watch the sky as it pinks and streaks. I have no plan.
I want to write hot orange poetry in the sky. I am too drunk already, and without
the jellyfish I might just swim for Connecticut. Couldn't be more than thirty miles.
I wonder if that would even count as suicide.

Remember trying to convince me to hate the Yankees?
Maybe if you asked me now I would pretend to care.
I hear you commit wild crimes these days.
Maybe if you were here we’d swim for Connecticut.