poems by Rena J. Mosteirin

Blog Archive

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Laundromat Poem

9am on a Sunday morning on the south side
of Chicago at Kimbark Laundry, I am sitting across
from my fiancé who is not talking to me.
He is looking at the machines, at the TV, at his thesis. I made a painting
of him last night and this morning it was on the floor, bounced
around between laundry baskets.
Now our four loads spin in soap.
We each carried one full basket here.
He didn’t want me to come, doesn’t want my painting to hang on the wall and
doesn’t want his parents to read my book. Most of the laundry is his.
He never wears anything more then once without washing it.
I think often about going to California, though I know he wouldn’t come with me.

I make a gesture across the aisle, my two hands pressed together like a heart.
He walks out the door. When the laundry machine first starts up
I look through the cabin window
as it tumbles for a while and then the soap bubbles come. Then the spins.
It comes out cleaner, older. No dog would know its smell.
He comes back with a chocolate croissant from
the nuns next door. He breaks it in
two halves and hands me the bigger share.

They are finding asbestos in Lake Michigan. Ass-bestos! This
made her mad and the fact that he won’t take her out for dinner, well
I don’t think I even have to say it, but
(of course) she took three of those pills she usually takes for anxiety
(she usually only takes one) and it’s so bad right now she can’t even read the titles
of the books in front of her
and she doesn’t even care.
She says, is it possible to wonder
about something that you know? Is it possible to wonder and to know
at the same time?

Sit down, honey. That’s me talking. Afraid she’s going to fall over.

It’s snowing again. I don’t really want to write about it or
play in the snow, I want to read, but the book I want to read is at work
and I am at the laundromat. Big snow in March. Big March snowflakes.
I never want people to see this poem. I always want people to see my poems.
Google is down, maybe they think that’s okay on Sunday mornings
maybe they think the people who don’t go to church don’t deserve Google,
all I can do now is go to Facebook and look at stupid boring-on-purpose
blurry hipster pictures of guys in nerdy poses
with thin blonde girls pretending they don’t care, pretending they don’t see the camera.

Is this a poem yet? Or am I going to go
back through this bullshit to try and find the very best words and try
to put them in the best (short)order like this:

big march snowflakes

Things I never want people to see me write about:
blurry hipster pictures of guys in nerdy poses with thin blonde girls
pretending they don’t care
playing in the snow
in France
on Saturday mornings
because Google is down. Oh Google,
is this a poem yet?

Maybe when I cut out all the talk-y bullshit that holds it together
the poem just seems short and chopped on purpose, like a bad haircut—
a short bob with bangs made by placing a big bowl over the head
of your poem and praying to some god or ghost
(like maybe Frank O'Hara from up there in heaven) to guide the scissors.

My hands are cold typing on this keyboard, didn’t realize I had to bring gloves to the laundromat in March. Maybe I will go to bed when I get home.
I am wearing my engagement ring on my thumb
because it is so cold that my hands have shrunk a little bit
and my skin feels all tight and cracked and dry.

I can’t believe it’s snowing in March. Big fat fucking snowflakes.
I wish it would stop. Do I think in poetic language or am I just faking it?
Am I doing this wrong? You sort of did the bagels wrong. They were toasted too long
and were a little hard and scraped the delicate skin by the gums of my bottom teeth.

Look at the snow! You say it’s pretty and go back to your work.
Did you really look? It’s like snow-globe snow. All big and feathery and wild.
Maybe if we get a horse I will name him “Old Feathers” yesterday
the best name seemed to be “Magic Bear” but it all depends on what sort of animal
the horse most closely resembles and if we move back to Vermont. I do
miss it there. Maybe our next place will have a laundry machine.
I don’t think we’ll be able to get baked goods from the nuns there though
(there might not be any nuns at all)
and then how will you tell me you love me?

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Straight in the Eye

Sometimes I feel like I am made of sunshine. Sometimes
I hear all the things that call. Swings on the playground
back and forth and I hear the birds all speaking different languages,
and when I am very quiet and pulling a teabag up and down
in hot water, making the cotton string vibrate just a little bit, I can hear
an almost-silent high note. You should always look photos straight in the eye

to make sure they're not lying. His eyes show a vast pain.
Did he take that with him or is the pain still in his eyes,
just buried underground now? In the photo
he is sitting next to me outside at night in a black tee shirt. I am wearing white.
On the back of the photo it says in red letters:

I am starving to the point of hallucinations
one ocean and two years away
from the country of your suicide.

Monday, March 24, 2008

playing telephone

I was in Manuela home and she told she was no feeling so good.
When she no feel good, she believe something going to happen...

Abulea can’t hear me respond, so she just keeps going,
when I try to respond, she goes ah-ah yie, there’s something wrong on the phone,
I can no hear you, and then she keeps talking.
It’s different with my mother; she can hear me respond,
she just prefers to talk. Occasionally she pauses to ask direct questions
and when she does this, I say one sentence, two at the very most
and she immediately misconstrues my sentiment:

So you see Dad as a moldy humidifier?
That’s how I read the poem you e-mailed me this morning.
I didn’t really have that much time to read it though.
I just cooked two chickens. Good white meat leftovers,
so I can make Marc a nice chicken salad for lunch.
I pack his lunch, did you know that? And breakfast goes in the bag too sometimes.
Uncle Peter is jealous, he says- do you chew it for him too?
He’s just jealous that Peter, cause no one ever did that for him.
He makes fun of Marc, says you’re 26, you live at home, your Mother packs your lunch?
Jealousy is a green-toothed monster. Green.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

The Orozco Murals and the Disco Queen

In the basement of the big library next door
the murals come alive and talk to the ghosts
of Wheelocks and Websters past. You can see them
peering in the windows of your dirty kitchen

in the basement next door. They all tell you not to waste
your time dedicating all the poems.
The dead don’t care. The living don’t notice.

Who cares who
this poem is in memory of?
Your kitchen poems always burn anyway
and the smell gets caught in your hair.
Each word gets a quick microwave minute.
You are addicted to the cheap cook of the microwave.

Once you thought you could kill yourself by holding your breath.
You woke up in a hospital with big dark ants crawling up the walls,
argued your way out and flew back to America the next morning.
You went straight from the airport to fill up a shopping cart

in the harsh rectangle bright yellow cat-eye supermarket, you inhaled
so sharply the label flew off the can you were holding
right into your mouth. It tasted like wood and like melting.

You can have anything you want, they told you, so
you danced all night at the disco party and then
took a beautiful stranger back to your basement room.
Of course, the Wheelock and Webster ghosts looked away politely
but the Orozco murals danced right through you.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

On line at the department of motor vehicles

my pious mother met a holy man. He could see the enlightenment
of the others in the room, he knew who had gone to India seeking
the very sort of guru who sits behind the desk at the DMV in New York from nine
to five every day (except weekends and government holidays).

The guru is everywhere, he told her. In everyone as in no one, no where
if not here, no one if not you. My mother’s silent cross
hangs around her neck and they smile knowing smiles at each other.
I wonder, my mother says to the holy man,
if you’ve ever sat on one of those elephants
like in that movie Monsoon Wedding?
I’ve always wanted to ride an elephant.

And he writes this on a piece of paper for her:

from the city
that buzzes
with machines

to the country
that hums
with bugs

what do I need
silence for

She thanks him. And she mails it to me
on the way home. I tape it to my fridge here in Chicago and miss her terribly.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

the polish bar

Your mother says, go to the Polish bar
down the street, that’s where all the young people
go on Thursdays. Kathy from the deli,
she goes every Thursday night—
stop picking your nose!
You’ve got to stop that immediately!
Your father laughs. Does it taste good?
He doesn’t know why your mother wants you at the bar.

Who does she get it from? Your mad mother cries.
From you, who eats his toenails!
What you’re doing right now is something despicable,
a work of the Devil. And you’ve got to pray on that.
Your brother does evil in his sleep.
It is the work of the devil! Pray! Pray!

Central park is filled with orange flags now
like warnings—this is what it will look like
when the park is roped off for construction
of strip-malls and superstores. Kathy from the deli
doesn’t pick her nose. She invited your brother
to go on Thursday night to the bar, but I told him not to go there…

Yesterday in Manhattan you went to a music shop
with your brother, asked if there was a bathroom.
Your mind was filled with orange
flags—The Gates—still, and the voice of your mother.

One day they will sell the park too
is that what this art is supposed to mean?
No public bathroom here, sorry.
The park will be full of buildings like this one
where you can’t even use the bathroom if you don’t buy something.

The old Italian man behind the counter looks like a girl
you used to smoke cigarettes with down by the river
who spoke lovingly of Italy, and of her father’s music shop.
You tell her father the name of the river
he lights up like a match was struck on one of his smooth cool guitars.
Bet he’s never seen her smoke a cigarette or pick her nose.
He gives you the key to the bathroom. You say thank you.

You don’t write poetry anymore.
You can’t even read. You don’t speak Polish.
When you ask, well drunk, how much you owe
they don’t tell you just give you another beer.

Lisa-Lisa Listless and Sarah Sit-Still and Doctor Disease
all tell you to drink up
they have been here drunk for years
kept getting drinks they didn’t want
waiting for the bill, while one, long ago desperate
tried to sneak out the bathroom window and was shot.

It was a stray bullet from a gang member
trying to scare an old lady looking at him the wrong way.
She thinks I eat too much pie, he thought.
Pulled out his gun randomly just to scare her
squeezed off a shot or two and
just like nothing killed Shelly-Sneak-Out-The-Window
then his cell phone rang so he didn’t hear her yell or fall
he lit a cigarette and spoke loudly to his Daddy
while the ladies at the bar talked about loosing Shelly.

I guess that’s what you get when you don’t pay.
So you all stay, waiting as the
pretty bottles go back and forth between the glasses
and the old wood shelves, the bartender never gets tired or curious,
he makes drinks for years and years until the money you came in with
is not enough anymore.

Holding drinks in pretty hands
with rings and painted nails they say
Hello Hello Hello again, Hello you- over and over introducing themselves.

Every Saturday night is the same. Saturday night is everynight.
You decide to live here, where the
glasses clink clink clink
like words in another language you knew once and then forgot.

Friday, March 7, 2008


In the swamp where snakes curl and heat rises in
visible waves from the heavy water and termite nests wrap
around tree trunks, there is a tiny old boat tied up
to one of the gnarled roots pushing
out, above and into the dank water. Painted
in sloppy red letters on the side: Mighty Gideon

somehow still floating as the river passes low
south toward the ocean to see the sun disappear and
the lights in Port of Spain rise, all tropical and urban
as the heat pushes through into evening.

This is her boat. The girl who talks with snakes and stars,
a new pirate in an old world.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008


Remember climbing into my little bed with me
and pretending it was a spaceship and that
the only thing we were allowed to bring on the trip to the moon
was candy and I described all the different candies I would
bring and what they would taste like and where I would put them
in the cupboards on the ship?

Big grape gumballs and endless knots of licorice and Cadbury cream eggs
I called you Lina, that was your secret name, remember
staying under the covers of my spaceship
until I fell asleep or cried myself to sleep? Remember, I was too sensitive.

Sad songs would make me cry. Oh Mom, when I closed my eyes
at night I saw your face behind my eyelids
coming in close to kiss me, the most dazzlingly beautiful
sight in my whole universe. The very moon I wished on.