poems by Rena J. Mosteirin

Blog Archive

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Heath Ledger is Dead

Out beyond ideas of rightdoing
and wrongdoing
there is a field.
I will meet you there.

I have been to lots of parties
and acted perfectly disgraceful
but I never actually collapsed
oh Lana Turner we love you get up
-Frank O’Hara

Once I got a kitten for my birthday
and named him Rummy, even though I was allergic
to hair from pets like the big gold dog Muffin,
who lived the backyard and garage mostly
but had to be put to sleep anyway five years before.

My brother told me I had killed the dog,
with my allergies. I couldn’t sleep.
I called the kitten Rum Tum Tugger,
Rummy for short, not Rumi like the Sufi poet,
which I think is pronounced Roo-me.

Rummy was soon married to a friend’s cat,
the lovely Socks and we all fell in love
with the slightly-freckled Heath Ledger collectively--
me, my friend, the cats, everyone. We loved the long dark hair
and the accent deep in his man-voice.

Rumi says it’s a field
but maybe it’s a very sunny apartment
where Heath Ledger will meet God
and she will love him with a thirteen-year-old-girl heart.
When I first heard it on the news I was out
somewhere and the TV said it was drugs--
oh Heath Ledger we love you get up!

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Apples in Nightgowns

My child-sized great-grandmother had special witch-words meaning
don’t make a mess. It sounded like bah-tz. Don’t bah-tz, she said
in the kitchen in Queens in a language that used to be spoken
only in one specific district of Slovenia before it was called Slovenia,
and she hated a mess, especially in the kitchen. I wonder if there still is a place
called Gottschee. She made apple strudels there and apple-in-sleep-frock dumplings
(she called them afpel-im-schaf-rook) before her hands were arthritic,
and she died before the place she came from was called Slovenia.
She was tough till the end, tough on Grandma who was raped at sixteen,
the consequence of coming to America
during world war two speaking something that sounded like German.

My great-grandmother rolled out her dough
on the big wobbly wood kitchen table till it was just thin paper,
like the skin on her old hard hands and as the dough got longer, going over the edge
of the table like thin pale fabric waiting to become a see-through dress for apples.

She worked in a factory for many years to buy this table and now she’s dead and I
don’t know what she made in that factory that I’ve walked past so many times
I forget to see it anymore and it's been closed since before I was born,
and no one remembers her recipes anymore. I guess she thought
she was teaching me to cook and speak her dead language
but I can barely remember her old words or
what apples in nightgowns taste like anymore.

Her husband left her for Canada and she brushed butter over
the dough with rough love like she did then before she had been abandoned
and before her daughter went crazy and went away, and she brushed butter over
after she had been abandoned and my Grandma, her daughter, came home and went to dances
at Gottscheer Hall and got married. Great-Grandma rained raisins and thin apple slices
and brown sugar democratically over the dough while I made a mess in her ancient kitchen.

Twenty years later
at a college
in the country
at an apple orchard
on a date

by all the apple trees and the war that I couldn’t see from New Hampshire
but knew was going on (or maybe I was just date-nervous)
I ate all the apples I could, till my stomach hurt and I bit my lips
to keep from crying or vomiting, and asked you nicely to take me home.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Welcome to Chicago

My neighbor bit a hole in an old rug I left hanging on the fire escape. It was my first week in Chicago. I took the rug out there to beat it and the dust flew out making clouds like cluster flies. I left it there for a while and did something else and when I came back there was a round human-mouth shaped hole in it. The squirrels could never have made a hole that big in the rug. They have small ratty mouths. I think my neighbor Jeff is jealous of the squirrels because the downstairs neighbor feeds them. Mostly it’s just birdseed and sunflowers, but sometimes it’s also fancy nuts like walnuts and cashews. Jeff can’t afford fancy nuts.
The squirrels probably watched him do it, but they can’t talk and tell me about it. He was out there on the fire escape smoking a cigarette and looking stoned when I came back out for the rug and discovered the hole. He blamed the squirrels right away and then said, “Well you don’t want a rug with a big old hole in it, do ya?” And I shook my head no, and sat down and lit up a cigarette and looked at the rug and looked at Jeff. He stroked the rug and raised his eyebrows at me. The rug was sad. There was nothing I could do really, I didn’t want the rug anymore. He asked if I was going to throw it away and I said, “Jeff, if you want the rug I suppose you can have it, but I really wish you hadn’t bitten a chunk out of it like that. I mean, I can’t even believe you put your mouth on it, man.” He laughed at me a little bit, thought about denying the whole thing and then changed his mind.
“I’ll make you a trap to catch the squirrels if you want. Then you can get them back.” He seemed to think that was an equitable solution.
“Yeah Jeff, thanks.” I stubbed out my cigarette and headed inside. My boyfriend was pissed about the rug, but there was nothing we could do. As it got colder the squirrels got more tenacious, and would come right up to us when we were reading on the fire escape. I read on the internet that the best way to get rid of squirrels is to spray wolf pee on the places they like to go. Wolves are the natural predator of the squirrel, the website said. I thought about that for a while and then I peed in an old lemonade pitcher and diluted it with water and took it out to the fire escape with me. I had a turkey baster and I filled it up with the watery pee and squirted it at the squirrels that bothered me. It seemed to keep them at bay. I could hear Jeff playing guitar bad and loud. Playing Hotel California in his funny little studio apartment, probably sitting on my rug with the bite-hole. Singing the wrong words with his big stoned mouth. Laughing at his own farts. We haven’t had that, beer in here, since 1969...When he came out for a smoke, I sprayed him with turkey baster. I told him it was water and he asked me to spray him again, this time he opened his mouth.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

No Gateway for Grandma

In the New Year I don’t want to blow
my Christmas cash city-side, I want to go to the dentist
when I get back to Chicago, back
to trying to get a health plan on part-time library wages
and full-time tooth pain. Doctors don’t know
what to do with Abuela who is bleeding on the inside
from the Daypro she takes for her arthritis.
She’s been told not to take it anymore
but when we go to Jackson Heights to visit,
she takes it so she can stand-up easily.

I tell her marijuana helps with arthritis, but she says no,
she can’t use it because it’s a gateway drug. Maybe
I'll make her pot brownies anyway and pretend
not to notice when she starts to say stoned-out things.

I should probably try to start paying back my student loans
instead of going ice skating, or getting Abuela high
even though it looks like it might snow a little,
and that is the most romantic time to skate, and you

are feeling a bad sort of claustrophobia on the border of Brooklyn
and Queens in what my mother calls the ancestral home
and you call the funny farm. Ridgewood.
The name does have a funny farm sort of feel to it.
Your parents have a real farm in Maine. Buckfield. I am learning
to type poems on my tiny new iphone screen.
Will our someday-children make fun of me for writing that
as though it were a real line in a real poem?

Wednesday, January 9, 2008


Sleep til noon when you can.
Plant the tulips.

How would you like Ralph Nader
to be characterized in our textbooks?

May you sleigh and fly.
The Hindu Kush, the diesel fuel.

Pomegranates. Juiced. Seeds.
Do the watermelons give me health?

A staple from a copy of the new yorker was substituted
for a needle, and popcorn was strung.

Are you John McCain?
Do you support this message?

This poem is composed of lines from Dave's blog about impressive things which struck me as particularly poetic. I selected and arranged them, but did not change the lines at all, except to capitalize some letters. So I didn't actually "write" this poem. But Dave didn't write it either. This brings up questions of authorship, as does my spam poems and the poem I wrote from Marc's e-mails. What do you think?

Sunday, January 6, 2008

A Cup of Coffee In New York

“No coffee can wake you no coffee can wake you no coffee can wake you no coffee”
-Elizabeth Bishop (from a poem fragment in Edgar Allen Poe and the Jukebox)

Went home for Christmas went
out to get a cup of coffee at night
and the place gets robbed by a guy I dated in high school.

Why did I come here expecting love, when all I really do
in New York is pay to be crowded in and
everyone I know is either too pushy or too depressed to be pushy?

And was this really
all caused by a man
on an airplane
on his knees?

And of course Mike
dead so very long now
couldn’t meet me at the airport.

And was this really
all caused by a man
on an airplane
on his knees?

And of course Mike
dead so very long now
couldn’t meet me at the airport
couldn’t wake up to forgive me.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Happy New Year

Here we have the sign which inspired the title of this blog. It sits on the bank of the Connecticut River in Norwich, Vermont. James E. Dobson took this photo.

Check out Farmhouse- one of my poems is in the new issue.