poems by Rena J. Mosteirin

Blog Archive

Friday, February 29, 2008

Sweet and Sour

Maybe the whole point of dreams
is to remind us not to take ourselves so damn seriously,
you say as we walk down 57th street
where car exhaust and snow mix in my mouth. It tastes like bacon.
It tastes like cold cancer. The sidewalk snow is yellow and sandy.

It’s so cold that it’s almost warm. This could easily be
a desert, but then the sign says walk, and we walk
and it’s just dirty snow and not sand.
The homeless man calls the cop brother, Hey
brother, where’s Carl today? The cop ignores, walks into the Valois.

Are there homeless people in the desert? It seems more noble
to be homeless in a romantic place like the desert.
Wasn’t Jesus a desert-hobo? No, he was a carpenter, that’s right.
I have sweet and sour cravings. We part at the Midway.

I love my silly French perfume, I have been wearing the same kind for years
it is both sweet and sour. I wonder what you are thinking now,
I am at work, you are at work.
I am listening to The Mango Song and not doing anything.
Your hands and feet are mangoes, you’re gonna be a genius anyway...
Are you doing exactly the same thing?

Sometimes I walk down 57th street with people who are no longer alive.
Remember when I had that nightmare
and you gave me your hand and pulled me awake
but when I really woke up, you weren’t there
and I was so surprised your ghost could find me in my bad-dream place.

Not really a ghost, because you are still alive, yes
more of a soul then and not really a ghost.
I walk down the street with ghosts
less and less these days.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

A Foal Pony

opens from mother-water, breathes air
for the first, thinks water doesn't rattle me
salt and fresh, rivers feed on mountains
oceans full of rivers
flow as the fresh foal falls forward
into life for the first everything
and breathes air.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Gun Roo

Last night I saw you give
a CD by Immortal Technique
to yourself from ten years ago, a guy
who randomly came over with friends.
He is a squatter in Grand Rapids, Michigan,
a town he lovingly refers to as "Gun Roo"
and has a Dead Kennedy's patch on his jeans
and you have a Dead Kennedy's tattoo
on your leg that you put there yourself
and filled in with India ink.

Okay, so ten years ago you weren't that guy exactly.
But you both have DK on your legs. The first
time I saw your tattoo I thought it was homage
to Donna Karan. I'm glad you gave that CD to Gun Roo.
He slapped a slap-bracelet on my wrist.
It cut me a little bit and today I have a welt.
He carried his stash in an old McDonalds bag
because it covered up the smell. What do you think
is going to happen now that Castro stepped down?
How is that going to effect the squatter population of Gun Roo?

I love you so much. You and your old India ink tattoo,
me and my janky old heart.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Cake and Coffee

This delicious coffee is so hot and bitter. The cake layers
are yellow, air and light and whipped cream and curls
of shaved chocolate. Happy Valentines Day.
I know it’s late, but I love you so much.
The cake is not symbolic, I assure you.
I got an e-mail newsletter from Midwest Living. In their tips
on reviving old Valentines Day classics, they explicitly said
the cake must be real. Not a metaphor
or a meta-cake or the idea of a cake, but the cake itself.
Let’s move back to the country.
Let's be one of those middle-of-nowhere couples
who sit on their porch in the twilight in their funny pajamas and read
or maybe I’ll wear a moo like Abuela and make tea in the teapot.
And all the strangers who pass by will be invited in
for cake. Our well water will have the mountain flavor,
like the air does there. It will show up in our tastes and in our textures.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Hoops and Pearls

The world is a bowl of pudding, so put on your best earrings
(the silver hoops) and your pearls before sinking in.
You try to look through it but all you see is the skin.
Poke it and the skin clings to your finger and lifts.
It is a good cool weight on your tongue.
It sings when you taste it, it sings beer-drinking songs.
You are making Kenny Hoffernitz, your dentist in Queens
uncomfortable as you explain this. He simply asked why you don't floss.
The world is not a bowl of pudding, he says
it's a minty fresh mouth. Kenny tells you about his kid.
She plays soccer aggressively, she is getting out all of her hostility now
and when she settles down with Mr. Right, Kenny will
teach his grandsons how to be dentists.
They will be iconoclast dentists, born to pull rottens
out perfectly on the first try, he says
and then he tells you to leave his office, because you
have been glaring at him since he rejected your pudding hypothesis.
Roobear, he says, Get out!
When your mother comes in for her cleaning she will hear about this
your lack of dentismal deportment (his words)
Ich bin darĂ¼ber nicht erfreut, he'll say in slightly new-yorked German
and his tools will respond first by dancing and then by swinging
large mugs of dark beer to and fro with gusto.
Your mother will laugh and say; high is the life, Kenny!
Which is a literal translation of a birthday song, it sounds awkward in English
but it's true. And then she'll tell him that her children are geniuses
and so is she. And he could be to, but he flosses too much.
Flosses the genius right out.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Nick Trail's Thumb

Rena Mosteirin

Rena Mosteirin
Kore Press 2008 Fiction Chapbook Award Winner
for "Nick Trail's Thumb"
chosen by final judge Lydia Davis

Rena J. Mosteirin is a graduate of Dartmouth College, where she majored in English and Creative Writing. Rena's focus was on poetry and her mentors at Dartmouth were Cleopatra Mathis and Cynthia Huntington. Rena won the Sydney Cox Memorial Award, the Grimes Prize and the Class of 1954 Award in June of 2007. Her poetry appears in Farmhouse, Green Rock Publications, The Stonefence Review, Untamed Publications and The Blue Light Newsletter. Rena is a joyful feminist, currently working in a non-profit library consortium in Chicago.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Lady of the Midway

Found a poem by Cleopatra
Mathis in the Denver Quarterly from 1983 today.
I saw her name on the front as I was about to shelve it up
in the climate-controlled (which means cold) cave
where there are no windows and no one goes
just me and the poem and it’s February
still so much winter and I was born
in 1983 so that makes this copy of Denver Quarterly my age
and Cleopatra’s poem is called February Thaw.

Oh darling, I broke one of your pretty blue
wine glasses this morning when I was leaving the house
it just sort of fell off the counter, okay I tapped the
cutting board behind it just a little bit by accident
and luckily it fell forward on the pink rug by the sink
and so it didn’t shatter but broke a clean three way split.

I was crossing the snowy Midway on the way to work
and a woman walking with her little boys on the thin plowed path
yelled at the boys to let me pass. “She shouldn’t have to walk in the snow.”
The woman shouted. “She’s a lady.” A lady. And they single-filed
behind her and I smiled like I thought a lady would and said
“Thank you” in my best impression.

And then I found the poem at work and then it was break
and I stood in front of the snack machine which only ever
has one tempting thing for me- the Big Texas
cinnamon roll. But the name really puts me off. What is so good
about being big, Texas? Most of the snacks are just gross plastic and
some of them have been there forever like the books on our shelves
that nobody ever requests. Maybe my life
will mean working here forever in the vending machine and poem kaleidoscope
and Cleopatra’s thaw poem made me cry. When the snow
is gone will anyone call me a lady on the Midway?
There is something so grand about that stretch of snow.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Violent Librarians

One night on Long Island when I was fourteen, an old furious Haitian matriarch who had probably saved for a long time to pay for her daughter’s sweet sixteen, stood up and said with a heavy accent, If you got beef, take it outside. I was under the table with the rest of the cheerleading squad. I’m not sure who went under the table first, but it seemed like the best idea after the first shot was fired. It happened so quickly, I didn’t really see the who and what of it, but I could guess the why and how. And then the police arrived and it was time to go. My new shoes seemed wasted on a party that ended so fast. I didn’t really feel scared till later when Dad was sitting on the couch reading the Sunday paper and read about the party and called me into the room. Why hadn’t I called home for a ride? Why I didn’t I tell him about it?

At another sweet sixteen, Henry and I ran away from the party to the hill by the middle school with the track that was made of recycled sneakers. I had taken off my uncomfortable black heels, the shiny ones with the straps, and left them by the basketball court before the cops came. I don’t know how they knew about us underage drunks trespassing, maybe they heard the noise from the party and were just checking out the surrounding area. When they came it was dark and we were up on the hill where the track stretched a quarter mile across the field ending at a small road. We didn’t run because we didn’t want them to see us. It was dark, and we rolled away. We rolled like logs across the field for a quarter of a mile to the road and my black lace dress had loose green grass poking out of it, and when we got back to party all scared and grassy, I realized I forgot my fancy shoes by the basketball court. So I took my chances and told Dad the truth when he came to pick me up, about where my shoes were, and he drove me to the middle school and they were right where I left them and he never told Mom anything.

There was a drive-by shooting outside the library where I work, a decade after the first sweet sixteen I attended which ended so abruptly. This shot was fired at three-thirty in the afternoon; I was shelving books off a cart deep in the second floor stacks where there are no windows. I didn’t hear anything, I was listening to Tori Amos, like I did in high school, and when I left work and walked home I thought about my shoes and how the water gets in them when I step in puddles, but they are really cute shoes and then at home there was an e-mail about the shooting and when I came into work the next day they gave me a red plastic whistle. A rape whistle. So do I blow this if I think someone’s going to shoot me or after I’ve been shot, in order to attract attention to my dying self? The library was too cheap to spring for handguns, I guess. Imagine that, the library ladies leaving work with their guns at the ready. And when one of us gets fed up by you and your overdue books? Will some expert then say on the news that librarians have a naturally violent nature?

Friday, February 1, 2008

Love is like a little tree

When we started we were so tender and nervous
small kindnesses were vital, they still are.
When we started, I would stay up all night to look at you.
Last night I looked at your body with thunder
rolling in flashes over you, making pools of moonlight
all smoky blue in your definite shapes while you slept.

Abuela once said, love is like a little tree,
you have to feed it and it will grow branches to protect you from the rain.
When the thunder stopped, it started to snow
last night and you left me a love note on the bedroom door this morning
you taped it up so I would see it first thing
because I had been crying in my sleep.
When I woke up it was all silence and snow.

Your note said:
You are special and wonderful –
I love you.
Please take the day off if you need it –
Drink soup, tea, eat an orange.
Smile. Take care of yourself.

And the room is bright this morning
because everything outside is coated with last night’s snow.
I call in sick and stay under the covers, eat ice cream for breakfast, right out of the carton, watch a movie on TV. I call Abuela,

she wants to talk about my “bad cousin,” because “we have to be with reality.”
The bad cousin had to pawn the playstation for diapers, Abuela says.
What is a playstation? Is it like a VCR?
I tell Abuela yes, it’s a VCR so fancy you could get many nice diapers for it.

Abuela says the bad cousin is lucky
she has such a thing to sell, back in the old days
if you have a lazy husband and two babies you have to work
when the babies are asleeping, sewing dresses for Mary Hoochie-Poochie.
I tell her I want more lines about love,
because I am writing a love poem, and without hesitation
she says: if your husband is a perfectionist
you must keep the house very clean.