poems by Rena J. Mosteirin

Blog Archive

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Okay Goodbye

She’s a hat hound
Did you know
Wallmart is the biggest

The hat hound looked guilty
The county sheriff pulled into thirty minute parking
Can meter maids give cops parking tickets

When I die will I still think about death
Will I be aware of it/ when the people I love die
Hello says the older Russian

Lady looking into her cell phone speaking loudly
Hello okay two things
I’ll need two drinks when I get home

And Maury died
Okay yes
Did you hear me about the second thing

Saturday, November 28, 2009


You came to the desert intending to starve XXXXXXX so starve
-Kazim Ali, from “Gallery"

Goiters are decadent, you said at that sidewalk
cafe/ as we watched the overweight middle-of-the day Long Island
(housewives and otherwise unemployed) populace strut and stumble.
Absent afternoons/ you made the proclamations/ I held
the video camera (unsteady)/ you with your gourmand starvation,
me with my chubby thighs. I loved you H-----, I still
have that tape/ you were in the front seat of your father’s car
I was in the back/ he left the car running/ when he went into the liquor store
and you turned around and lip-synched with the radio:
I’ll be your dream/ I’ll be your wish/ I’ll be your fantasy...
We were practicing for some tremendous life. We were both/ the cosmonauts
and the stars. New York was ours/ stomach and appetite/ and all the black holes
and boiling points/ in the K-mart bathroom on Astor Place
where the decadent lack /paid off in pleasure and the famine changed
in the fever and chaos of heaven/ now relish your juvenile drought:
you came to the dynamo/ compelled to be a genius/ so be a fucking genius.

Monday, November 2, 2009

You Can Get Anything You Want At Alice’s Restaurant

The hell cat was there/ and the log lady/ Colonel Sanders and the Pope,
a prostitute/ a friendly cat/ the genius and the swine flu/ all eating my pot brownies
like the ones we made in Queens years ago for Abuela’s arthritis
and then we thought we’d just eat one/ see if they work/ hours later we were slack-jawed
everything gone/ at the kitchen table/ a candle was lit/ a pizza
was delivered—thank you Uncle Peter—and the brownies
never took/ the road to Abuela’s mouth.

How could we attempt the subway?
We would have been laughed off the bus.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Theory of Sugar

Salt gave you a canine thirst/ love is a feline sugar-hunger.
Paw, sniff and wait/ for love to wrap you in a jacket

then you will know the right way to struggle/ what to wear
so your outfit will say it for you. Say it lumberjack loud/ in red plaid.
Frye boots. Tank top. Say it with a drunk face
full of Momma’s vodka/ singing
wild, wild horses/ couldn’t drag me away...
What kind of shit is that? Ladybugs distract you to wandering
while your boyfriend’s father beats him with a belt buckle
and later you will kiss /his welts

get higher/ and drunker/ go down/.../ and as the car slides back and forth
like Momma’s face shaking a “no”/
on the black ice of the main drag/ such a fucking shit town/ didn’t even salt the road.
No. No. Nothing, nothing./ Sweets or salts./ You eat nothing
to prove that you are nothing. You tell him salt
is just another kind of sugar
and sugar/ is just another kind of cocaine.

(But that’s not what you mean.)

The accident tastes like bloodsalt and grit. You can’t spit any of it out.

A deep peace/ be with you./ A deep peace
I stole from a taproot
to rub on your wings.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Lost Bear

Sometimes everything stops.
Sometimes fish skeletons cross
to indicate danger/ on your underwear.

Tell me about that dream
island we live on/ wherever we are./ I don’t care about the name of the ocean
just tell me the address. Without it I might drown.

Instead of television I watch salmon
jump up the ladders
to swim through the dam

/some get chopped/

and some are saved by their velocity/ saved for the mouths of bears
low in the dark forests behind the superstores
where the buzzing electric signs attract away

the bugs that might otherwise get stuck in their fur.
Small reasons to be grateful/ always small/ always grateful,
and somewhere in this country a bear is loosing the scent of her home

and dies on the highway/ that world of nightmares.
You are not her/you have
such a family/ such a home.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Where Bones Go

Morning hurts my eyes/ it's like trying to look through a one-way
mirror of new maples and old moons/ it's a drag getting old/ less meat
and it's getting harder to pull the teeth/ out of all the bad mornings. So I sit
in the public park and smoke myself invisible/ while the flowers push
out round/ coffeehouse cabbages/ cauliflower cream and gold,
pumpkin orange and crimson/ I can hear their roots hitting small drums underground.

Bones turn into roots underground but aboveground things turn into bones.
The spokes on bicycle wheels are almost already bones. The leaves on these big trees too.
I pluck a shovel-shaped bone and dig/ displacing colonies of insects/ killing their heros,
I killed my own hero once/ I bury him again/ clump by clump. Then I rebuild/ plant
I see the clouds with smoke and pray for a painted rain

to coat the velvet of bumblebees. I keep chanting the word miracle/ until the swam
hums out of my sleepless/ horrors into daylight/ in all the colors of rain
and I have to choose/ public library/ museum or a hundred thousand stings.

They teach weaving techniques with clippings of pubic hair
held by baskets in circles and baskets in bells. Tunics of porcupine quills,
shirts of pain/ in grassfields where they mutilate women.

Pottery/ ancient and modern./ One gourd
is shaped like a penis with a handle.

Raffia/ pigment/ pattern/ I will paint
a leaf/ somehow/ on my ear/ and carve geckos into the side of my belly
then triangles for balance/ elephants for luck.

I need a direct pull/ wood-brushed dung, grass and the strip.
I will never be a gown. A showpiece waiting

on the wind to dance through my tortures of lace.
I am a container or jar. Filled with palm wine or indigo.
Studded, painted, covered and whole.
Mouth, breasts, belly and vagina.

This is how you make tye-dye:
the dye does not penetrate the fabric that has been bound.
Think about it.

Each individual pain has it's very own nest.
Plush velvet women are breastfeeding caterpillars/ black and tan
cheetah and bumblebee/ chessboards of pain/ black and white,
big-bottomed and serpentine-necked.

Whole acres full of fire/ calling for China's weight in rain
represented by a crimson-glazed bamboo clock.
If someone wants your things for free he is not your friend
and he is maybe Castro. Enough with the communists already! Remember:
there is enough happiness in the world for everyone.
Look at all the different Buddhas: fat Buddha/ skinny Buddha. Both Buddha.

Ganesh the elephant is here and the one with all the arms
here the turtles are all stacked on each others backs and biting/ lucky coins.
Singing bowls and prayer flags/ big pots and tiny bells for sacred toes,
thumb pianos for gypsy music and finger cymbals/ shocks of bells
to tie around ankles for stomping/ Native flutes/ walking sticks with carved faces.

The homeless lady starts singing in the lobby/ the sacred
objects do their various dances/ the elephant mama, for example,
has a carved-out back/ see the baby stone elephant inside
as they raise their trunks together/ rocks split open/ the shimmer comes on
in purple pokes and old fire. Vending machines
feed the homeless who wake up outside, wanting a breakfast of Skittles.
Pretzels if they are being healthy and Doritos if they are depressed. Never bottled water.
Much better to have something that gets stuck in the back teeth
for licking later/ especially rainy today/ if the singer gets us all kicked out.

Homeless are not allowed to sing/ in the spaces of the public. Library and museum.
Railway platform and truck stop. Remember:
poor people always die first in a flood.
But the opposite is worse: acres of grassfield fire
where there are no vending machines/ no rain.
Here we are just bones with no where to go.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Girl from Guantánamo

American abuses ruined the name/ of the most Cuban song you know.
You love it anyway. You played it at the wedding
for Abuela. You want to learn to play the cello.

At the wedding there was a cellist, dancing./ You can't afford a cello
so you painted one/ life-sized on canvas/ this will keep you faithful
to the idea of getting a cello someday/ learning how it likes to make sound.

Right now it is enough
to look at the cello painting
and listen to Yo Yo Ma.

It is enough
to listen to Celia Cruz
and smile Abuela's smile.

It is like having a cello.
It is like having a Cuba.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Hopefully a bacteria

I say I don't want any soup/ he says, egg drop
and gives me a steaming bowl of yellow and float/ eggs cook in broth like this.
My lips still taste like toothpaste/ it's good I left the house. This egg
was going to be a chicken/ I was going to be a painter.

Painters cook like this:
wines by the glass.
Poets cook like this:
wines by the bottle.

White Zinfandel/ Pinot Grigio/ Chardonay
Merlot/ Cabernet Sauvignon/ yolk-thick and yellow,
when I'm dead offer me oranges and incense, offer me egg yolks and pony hair,
says the man sitting behind me.

I am the only one in the restaurant. There is no man sitting behind me.
There is no one singing in the kitchen. No soup/ no fishtank
of doomed lobsters. I have always had good luck
writing at Chinese food restaurants in the middle of the day.

My wife's sister, the man sitting behind me says, I hate her/
hopefully a bacteria will get her in the bowels.

Sunday, August 30, 2009


Once upon a time/ something let go
and the whole thing just shifted. The core released its grip. The waves got too big
to just go in and out/ in and out/ in and out/ so, the waves went out and stayed there.

They watched for signs that the water would come back.
They said /deep deep/ down from here, the ground broke.

Ghosts walked the earth with bags over their heads then/ and as the ocean
made one huge wave that would run back/ crushing/
they yelled out into the calm/ before:
this is how you have a war.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

New Corn

Today on the highway/ there's hundreds of white cars,
men in starchy summer husks/ speeding toward the strip-mall church
to worship a god no bug wants. The poems have stopped working.

Weeds won't grow near the big fakes.
Kernel by kernel/ well-stocked breed of debt.
If the bugs reject it, it's no good.

Mornings at my desk in Indiana
I watch the highway weep white cars.

Friday, July 24, 2009


The deck chair is still/ but you feel like you’re still rocking
back and forth in the hammock, with its cradle comforts and the sun in your eyes.
The sea is close, maybe too close.

Bicycling down the avenue by the shore, you pass two women.
The first has short arms—child arms and a big forehead-dominated face
and she pushes a baby carriage around the perimeter of the island all day
in very small steps. You pass her quickly/ you wave/ she waves one of her terrible arms.
The next woman you fly past is supported by two crutches.
Watching her struggle with the small hill reminds you that you are flying
on your bicycle/ your aptly named Avocet/ and the woman has all white hair and you say hello and you’re sure you’ve never seen her before in your whole 25-year-long life
and she says Hello, Fancy Seeing YOU Here!

Two trees a big old fir and a new oak.
Two claws on the lobster- the crush and the pinch.
Two women on the avenue today, and you, little bird
trying to understand everything at once/ sure that all the information will loop around itself like the avenue loops around the island you are starting to feel familiar and comfortable with/ when the information connects it can be called something else,
something seaworthy. You are not seaworthy yet.

Rocking back and forth in the hammock
which is also the cradle/ the sea
rocking back and forth by pushing off with one delicate lobster leg
against the freshly painted railing stacked with the treasures you scuttled off the beach:
driftwood, shells, beachglass, a piece of old pottery with a cracked white and blue glaze
you would pluck all the riches from the sea if you stayed here forever
but you belong to the mainland/ you like feeling still when you lie in your bed
or sit on a chair/ you were not made for boats/ you like your treasures deep

in your own dark body where they grow like pearls.
You keep your tumors magnificent,
yes, they are all gorgeous gems.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Breakfast and Bullshit

One coffee please, she says and curls her hand around the heat
like a cat curling up to go to sleep/ but the opposite.
Two nights ago she couldn’t sleep/ she was high on time (time in water)
looking at the calendar like it was a stone table with rows/ that the weeks
of the month were made to flow through/ coffee water through the mouth
bitter time and like a cat

pushing silk on your calves, ankles/ time in fur
snaps it’s tail at you/ time in seconds
sounds like the ocean’s small crashes/ on repeat/ it looks like now
and now and now. What are you listening to?/ I ask. Biggie, she says.
What?/ Biggie./ What?

Biggie Smalls./ The Notorious B. I. G./ Biggie biggie biggie can’t you see?
Sometimes your words just hypnotize me/ she sings
and the whales of the world beach themselves/ believing it is the rapture.
She rehabilitates the whales/ every one of them goes back
everywhere music is coming out blowholes/ so I dance/ on the beach
bitches in the back lookin’ righteous/ in a tight dress/ I think I might jusssss
as the ocean grinds up on the sand/ as the barrister grinds the coffee beans.

Next week she’s going to teach me how to fly
and how to make ugly ice cream/ it is the Age of Ice Cream,
and then we’re giving up poems.
My pants will write the poems for me in the future. My pants and my computer.
My pants will drink the coffee and my computer will weep the weeps.

One coffee please/ here/ she hasn’t been able to sleep or shit in days,
if we could just get back in the ocean, if we could just remember how
to drink coffee underwater and where to plug in our laptops.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Miss Tehran 2009

In Tehran in blood red and skin/ color this morning
and the color of smoke/ watch this woman
as blood comes all over her face/ and she dies
on a computerscreen/street in every city
in the world. Her name means blood
no, that is incorrect/ her name means voice.

Now blood takes her lungs, fills her voice
every computer can see her dying face this morning
you can tell by her eyes and you can tell by the blood
again and again this woman
who is so beautiful/ we pass her on the street/screen in every city
on the screen on my computer on my desk she dies.

In Teheran in blood red and skin/ color she dies
on the news it says her name means voice.
We stand beside her on the street of the desktop city
and she bleeds from her beautiful face. This morning I found a dead woman
on my screen and I don’t know what she said but she said it in blood.

We drink our office coffee, it tastes like blood
on the computers at our desks we watch as she dies
over and over. Maybe this time they will save the woman
but they never do. Even though she is beautiful and her name means voice.
We drink our office coffee and die with her this morning
on computer screens in every city.

Dear dead woman, your city is burning, your city
the world is watching as your lungs fill with blood
you won’t get a funeral so let’s give you a beauty contest this morning
we count you/ we vote for you/ you still die
on this video where you are your country and your name means voice
you are Miss Tehran 2009/ you are the dying woman

you are the beautiful perpetually dying woman
we stand beside you on the street of the desktop city
red blood of voice
red voice of blood.
Look at Miss Tehran 2009 as she dies
on your desk again and again this burning morning.

Her name bleeds voice, this dying woman.
We mourn her this morning in all of the bloody cities.
The revolution flickrs in our electric eyes as Miss Tehran bleeds and dies.

Monday, June 15, 2009


Clove-flavored taffy/ tastes like sweet-salt-smoke/ reminds me of the clove cigarettes
from Indonesia that Marisa offered around/ after everyone had left the backyard
on the night of our wedding/ when we were all drunk on the back porch.

A little boy running down the beach throws a rock/ at you/
reading Nietzsche/ on the blanket beside me./ He must not like Nietzsche, I say.
Emmanuel!/ That was bad! That was very, very bad!/ his mother screams
kicking sand in our sodas as she chases him down the beach.

The little boy running down the beach is not a ghost/ this time.
The little boy running down the beach is not my husband.
You are my husband/ reading/ feet burrowing into the sand/ as a schooner with two masts
floats by and early June is too early/ to swim the ocean in Maine.

Today we are beach flavors/ strawberry, orange and cream,
cotton candy, banana, clove,
key lime pie, garlic and ginger.

I want mouthfuls of ocean.
I want nosefuls of ocean.

Do mermaids eat lobsters?
Can the mermaids hear me singing?

Now we are back at the house on Brackett Street/ and I have all our shells and seaglass
and driftwood/ spread out on the back porch table/ and one big jar/ and the love of my life
is in the kitchen/ scraping barnacles off muscles with a butter knife.

This jar will keep the sea with us. On the table is the camera
with it’s one twist-close eye/ pointed straight up/ hawk-watching.

The cork from last night’s bottle/ 24 pieces of beach glass
a foot of clean, blonde driftwood/ 11 shells
3 rocks and a bag of sand/ the smell

of mussels in garlic comes steaming out of the kitchen
you come/ pick up the best one/ you say, this is the most beautiful rock I have ever seen.
Children ride by/ ringing the bells on their bicycles.

I suck the barnacle cuts on your fingers/the trees in the backyard clap their millions
of leaves/ you put on a record/ the white album/ and sand sails off the porch
onto the green lawn, kept summer-people perfect/ “Only one refused to open!”

You yell./ Wonderful./ These old barnacled-up mussels still have something in them:
the ocean music/ what it refuses
and the tree music of oxygen making.

The mussels are full of pearls.
I swallow them/ thinking they are rocks.
I am too in love with you to care.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

I have to admit I love the title

First of all, ladies and gentleman,
these boats have like 12 people on them

and they're on the ocean for days and weeks at a time
and there's like no space (the T was crowded but bearable)

and the captain was from Winchester too, believe it or not. Massachusetts.
(Get this -- the coxswain is from Winchester!)

Some guy who just wanted to shoot jump shots with me
went and got his shoes. A good day
(except the celtics lost, we're not gonna talk about it)

and i sound nothing like Yeezy.
This song rules.

There was an enormous oil tanker right in the middle of it all,
make it your desktop and you'll be able to get through the offseason.

(This poem is composed of fragments of blogposts from Dave's Blog About Impressive Things)

Monday, May 11, 2009

It is so hard to sit here and not touch you


I see the wind roll snow across the front windows
and howl through the huge empty
back door. This 200-year old skeleton of a house
lives inside me with my stories
and keeps me standing up even though sadness is saggy and limp
and weighs too much. Today
I need to e-mail Mom. Thank her for the earrings.
Stop writing poems where she kills things.

Today starts out with me being surprised that a fifteen year old boy
would be working towards his PhD. I text you a stupid joke
about Dogie Howser. There’s a novel written on scraps in my purse.
I was going to assemble and then burn it,
so I could write a proper novel on my laptop
in my time-off, but now I can’t find all the parts.

Yesterday a woman walked into my library
who was exactly what my mother was afraid I would be:
heavy, spoiled and blonde. Her laugh was too slow.
I want it. Slow laugh. Slow laugh./ I want it! Can I have it? I want it!

My mother is the sort of woman who refuses to take women seriously.
Her church taught her that. She is all dry church-air and stupid pious loneliness.
Not me. I read books. I call you loveboat.
I have brown hair. I go to the gym and work at a library.

Hundreds of times I’ve passed the same stone statue and thought/ what
a lovely stone. It’s a woman though. There’s a half-carved woman there.
I just haven’t seen her before today. I apologize to you, stone lady.
I think this is another thing my mother was afraid
I would do—talk to stones and art and anything that can’t talk back.

I talk to everything. I tell all of my mother’s nasty secrets—
I publish them. It’s her fault. She made me go to confession.
For years I lied to priests in boxes while she waited
and measured my sins, counted the minutes I sat in the pews, praying it off.
So many poems about her, each a cross
she takes to the dream mountain every night and asks Jesus
to help her carry.

I am surprised to see the fifteen-year old PhD boy walk into the woman’s bathroom.
I get many strange text messages today:
he looks like a hero/ there’s surprisingly little difference
between doctors and drug dealers/ i know why the caged bird sings

This last one reminds me that my mother killed a small yellow bird
by accident, she claims, when she was a child.
She’s asked me to leave her out of my poems. But here
it seems important that I explain
how she reached into the cage and held the canary, feeling it’s heart

beat between her fingers before it went stiff with fear.
That was her first death.

She is the sort of woman who can kill anything.
She can answer any question with the complete certainty of a lunatic,
proud of her bullshit answers. And I am always asking stupid
questions. Why? Why does the caged bird sing? Prozac? Is the answer Prozac?
It is god? Is it a combination of god and Prozac?


I have waited so long for you to die
please stop
coming to these dreams where icicles are upside-down castles
that hang off dead mills/ with broken/ busted-in windows like old, bad teeth.

You live in swirly/ frozen castles that I am passing on the train
where I am trapped, because the doors are frozenshut/ and because of you.
Dream train-traps have captains who announce:
The café is to the rear and the restrooms are right behind you.
The sky is Switzerland/ blue. These snowed-over houses are marzipan.
The river is iceglass/ and powdered milk blows all around the train.

Beside the river there is the circle where we used to sit around the fire
and make spells and wishes. Now I am too afraid of fire
to pray like that. See how the logs all line up together,
someone shoveled out a circle here. I can’t go there to meet you, the doors

are shut and stuck and they have been forever.
I must have been born/ on this train in a warmer
time. A bird nest full of snow like a snowcone
flies by the window, then you fly by/ my headless duck.

A cardinal flies in the opposite direction like electric blood lightening
dotting the hurt where weak, young trees
have been knocked over by storms, their roots all the way up out of the ground,
like girls/ on the floor/ with their skirts pushed up

who won’t remember this in the morning/ maybe they’ll try to fly away
or maybe they’ll never wake up/ or they’ll wake up and be someone else.

Six sparrows fly in formation next to the train/ the lowest one drops off.
We are in the forest now, where scrubby trees twist into barbed wire fences
I decide to hijack the train
because if we can go south where it is warmer
the ice will melt and the doors will open. I will leave the train
and everything I touch will be you.

It is so hard to sit here and not touch you.
So I shoot the captain.
The sound from the gun wakes me up.
Please stop.
Please. Stop
making me crazy for you.
Just die. Die. It’s been almost seven years now. Go.
Or haunt me to my face when I am awake.
Get your ghost-hands on a real gun/ and point it at my brain/ and make sure it’s not a dream.


In the darkness it's the hardest for the unicorn whale.
All the pretty rocks are ice.

I'm half in the river terror/ half
climbing out every day/ I try to reach you
every day/ a different bird eats my liver.

I tell myself okay/okay because one of these days the bird will be you.
It always gets worse at night. It is always so fucking terrible at night.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Three Etudes

Etude #1

Baking your blue/ mornings in the clay oven/ I never thanked you
for all the days that you did not kill yourself.
Maybe if I had thanked you for each day
you might have kept stringing them on, one after the other.
Maybe life could have been something that felt good when you held it in your hands.

Pipe organs, tusked, enormous, inseminate/ the church with white music.
I wish they would play television show themesongs. I sing them
in the shower/ I sing them in my sleep. The bow tortures the song
out of the cells/ of the strings/ of the cello. If this music
disturbs children no one should listen. We’re all too white
to register the disturbance. But perhaps it’s just too loud?

Is the music making me cry or is it her vanilla smell?
(It’s the old you’ll-love-me-if-you-love-cake trick!)
Sections of the horsehair bow are snapped and sloughed
off/ we watch/ watching is the standard
response/ to torture. Who is the cello? I demand to know. She will not say.
She says she makes music
the way old houses make ghosts. One by one/ from nothing.

Take any kitchen perfume/ make everything a hand drum.
Cut hungry/ diamond-shaped holes in the walls./ Count the bones in her back.
She is the hardest rock./ Every visible bone is her American apology/
a denial of complicity. Now everyone stands to sing./ Seasons of concerts
go by. Every famous fire/ makes ash that nobody wants to claim.
Every instrument is a handgun/ if you have the right hands.

How can we tell if it’s music? Put the masterwork beside an imitation
and let a reincarnation of you, the newborn you/ indicate
which is blessed. If you, dead-and-back/ indicate the imitation
we will know for sure/ everything is music.

Etude #2

She’s so Connecticut. Her dyed black hair matches her black shirt exactly. I like all different shades of black worn at once. I like the mirages uncertain colors make; an extra breast here, hips, bumps in the legs. She is talking about Cuba. Inside my feet/ there are keys that know all the locks in Havana. How do I say that in Spanish? My feet can walk to Florida and I could swim the rest of the way. Ninety miles to meet/ exile backwards. Cuba is the sister I’ve never met and am afraid to talk to. She will imprison you/ if you tell her your love her/ the wrong way. She pulls me with warm ribbons. She wants me back. Every word in Spanish/ that I can’t understand/ is another lock.

You are not trying hard enough!
This is not beautiful enough!

I said, I want to be kind.
He said, no, you want to be real.

No, I want to be beautiful. I want to swim ninety miles to Cuba. I want that to feel like coming/ home. There is too much beautiful/ in this big library, to look/ at the unimportant poet woman standing at the door/ flipping through an English-to-Spanish dictionary looking up the word for home. Casa. Make yourself at…Then; home address, home banking, homecoming, home computer, home game, homeless, home loving, homely, home made, home page, homesick, home town, homeward, homework. If you focus on English words, the Spanish hurts less. Casa, casa, casa, the locks click forward.

Etude #3
(On the phone with Abuela)

George and Monica found a little house near./ For the children
because Monica gets nervous. How you call that—
how mother talk to children- very high
!!!ei-i-i-i-I!!!/ Screaming?/ Si. Escreaming./ I hear

the Bermont is the more healthy state in the united state.
It’s not one day like other/ the family of James giving dinner for us.
I need something from Saturday.
Sometimes I can’t understand what day is.
You’re going to be whole Rena, I am sure/even when/ you could no do it that day.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Ethan Allen

Lying on my belly in the grass/ trapped behind one closed eye/ one eye open
my toes stretch like little painted earthworms toward the arch of your foot.
My parents have always told me different versions of the same story.
We are watching sailboats tilt in the lake. Dogs run for sticks
that’s how I run back to Mike's death, a dog with water in my dirty fur

shaking it on everyone/ on you/ all the time.
Grief is a trough of poison. You must not put your snout there. Or your growly teeth.
Stand on two feet/ waltz away to the landscapes of fictions.
It was a white car with California plates/ and a girl eating ice cream on the deck of a ship
and as the ice cream drip-dropped/ sugar on wood/ the ship was called Ethan Allen/
the car drove straight into the water.

This is the same story:
the ice cream girl was standing on the dock/ melting
sugar on skin/ the ship was called Ethan Allen.
The man in the white house looked out the window and thought
that's the prettiest girl I've ever seen.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

chronic pain/ love, chronic (also)

Driving back through plastic aroma avenues/ where the lawns connect
like a carpet thrown down before a barefoot fight/ you inhale
splendid suburban afternoons/ a pool/ new growth trees/ splendid
suburban (human) sacrifice. Leave
the window open. Passing on the left is the neighbor girl your dog bit once.

(She is old now, she is the exception. No one stays here really.
She deserves this, like she deserved it when Muffin bit her. She
jerked his tail and she was in love with the same schoolbus bully you loved.)

Remember when you rolled it all into a spliff/ in that frozen-pizza-eating
season of joy/ and sent it in the mail with your application?
Your application said: Please/ let me live
in one of your tiny worlds/ let me have a house
with plenty of places to hide. I will listen to and learn/ the names
of your silences. I will take in the hum/ of the nearby highway
and I will call it river.

Now having swum already over/ the many for-sure rivers
miles on miles/ causing chronic pain/ love, chronic (also)
/now you come back and can’t see/ the sweet afternoons you smoked
cigarettes hiding in the backyard with a homemade Long Island
iced tea/ reading Anna Karenina and smelling the grass/ hiding
from everyone/ throwing yourself over
and over/ onto the tracks.

Let me live, your application said/ and live and live.

You don’t really miss this/ at one time it felt like love
now you know it was lust/ just like hearing a radio-song-on-repeat
until you’re crazy/ about it/ but you don’t really love music
you can’t even tell that it’s a fugue. Suburbia is all words.
You experienced everything as words then:
fugue/ river/ highway
obsession/ vein/ bone.

Monday, April 6, 2009


Eyes gloaming, she/ parted the grass faithfully
in the evenings/ and found a different door
there every time./ So she thawed the doors down
and glazed the mud/ supported the head, sculpted
an intelligent forehead/ and a wide, flat roof
for dancing/ on the top of the city/ eyes closed, arms out
to the wind/ full of color/ all the colors the day made.
The sun rises like Lazarus/ she inherits death
in the morning/ learns history/ makes decisions/ so many separate traumas,
they are all doors. Doors or birds.
Her face feels colors as wing\bird/wing
blending cheek, chin, neck, forehead/ feathers. Feathers
carving heads from mahogany and bodies/ feathers beating codes into keypads
making triangular doors open behind her eye-ing eyes
one by one/ in clear, bright color/
fluid/ wrapped in sweetgrass/ using phrenology to misunderstand/ proportions,
hang this/ on the walls in the rooms where war
is declared and denied, hang /this, in a frame
is the face/ of the trauma/ she inherited
/ the porcine sky and/ naked mountaintops of the mind/
she refuses any knowledge of or association with history.
She doesn’t need the dead to re-live their deaths for her.
Her head is shaped to see the city as country.
(translation: Her country-head is city-shaped so as to see.)

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

You May Be Right

I’d kill you if it came to that./ Six decades/ two sons
murder-suicide/ Hanover, New Hampshire./
The police suspect no foul play/ there is no evidence of domestic abuse/
the couple mentioned to their friends many times that they didn’t want to live
without each other./ Would you kill me?

Friday night I crashed your party
Saturday I said I’m sorry

My face is like a split melon uncomfortable/ in the dentist’s special
padded chair this morning/ where the local news radio sputters out:
they were married 59 years/ they wrote notes to their sons
about their decision/ to die together./
Everyone in this town knows by now/ he shot her and then himself.
But I wasn’t thinking me and you/ until this song came on after the news broadcast
and sometimes we crash parties too.

You may be right
I may be crazy
But it just may be a lunatic you’re looking for

That kind of love needs a better name than murder-suicide.
/ I jerk
my head up/bleeding gums and teary
eyes make the dentist pull back/ and as I spit it all out
in the little white sink and watch my blood swirl down/I suddenly know
we have that kind of love.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Non Sequitur

In Slovenia where I was born/ the flowers come out of the ground beak-first to greet the birds/
because if they keep beating at it/ north north north/they will fly past the top pole of the world.
The birds rest their wings/let their skinny and lazy legs do the work that houses do,
Grammy says.

Behind my house is a barn full of feral cats, I can hear them screaming
at the stars some nights/ a whole sustainable cat city that rubs its back
on the rough old wood/ leaving petals of fur thatched there.

The compost smell turns them into vampires at night. I suck the thirsty juice
out of my grapefruit husks and then throw them at the barn.
They bounce off the side and slide into the compost heap with a sluice over the matted fur.
The barn is an animal too/ I see it move at night/ it’s heading to the lake.
But if it gets there it will turn out to be Grandma/ the lake will turn
into the Connecticut River/ and she’ll stand on the bar between the sidewalk and the water
leaning her great neck down like a swan to the river
and drink until she is not thirsty anymore.

Birds can’t fly past the top pole of the world! I insist.
Behind my house before the compost and the barn is the Christmas tree
I didn’t want in the kitchen anymore and wasn’t ready to completely give up.
It looks so lonesome in the snow. This is what cutting down trees looks like.
Chairs, cabinets, floors—all lies. This is raw wood/ frozen/chop/ factual/chop/ authentic.
A whole chain of words that won’t become roots and let this tree grow again.

In the war we were so hungry we ate the trees.
We sucked the sugar out of pine needles. So sweet they were! So sweet, no?

The painted-on white sky and pines touching the clouds
in the picture trick her/ into remembering wrong. Unless she’s right.
Memory is a house that crumbles a little bit every day
onto your head. You just can’t see it yet. That’s why Grandma’s lowered her face
to the river impossibly/ while leaving her fat body on the two-lane bridge.
Boats pass/she smiles at them.

She calls me by my mother’s name. Irene, she says. I correct her.
She insists there is no difference. You will get married to a nice man one day. Do something

about your upper arms. They are too big. Men like little arms. I want to push her off the bridge/
with my big arms/ instead
I remind her that I am getting married/ in May/ she’s got to find a dress soon.
I grab her by the wing to take her shopping. She won’t budge and I start shouting:

The only place you shop is the supermarket! You can’t buy a dress there to wear to my wedding!

Ach! I can, she says. Ach! Jesu Maria! Jesu kindlein! She invokes baby Jesus
and his mother/ in Gottscherrish. The bridge coughs./
It’s trying to be subtle./ Can you take this somewhere else,
the bridge seems to be saying. I’m scenic. People don’t need your immigrant story here.
You never ate pine needles!
/There is no such language as the one you’re speaking. It died./
You country doesn’t exist./ You can’t even remember it anymore./ This is all you’ve got.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

American Perspective

America Loves Rich People

You were laid off
why are you telling me about the nice kitchen
of your former boss? Why do you know all the details;
the kitchen island, the marble countertops, the shining new pans hung
on hooks from the ceiling? We all do this,
memorizing the make of the cars they drive
while we are sitting on the bus.

/The most important thing to remember about miracles is/ sometimes you see them and
sometimes you don’t./

My tea is green
you ask me
in the grotto
the dark back-reaches
of the café
as I molest my soft Italian designer jeans
still in their bag

if I think a bomb threat would work.
If a bomb threat would make your boss re-think things,
the big-picture things and ask you to come back.
I shove a plate of cookies at you.
I tell you we need to go to the art museum across the street.
We go straight up to the photography exhibit.

Chromogenic Print

This photograph of Cuba makes me upset because of Abuela/ and how much she would
love to go back. Someone has hung colorful communist laundry/ over the graves of my
land-owning ancestors. Yellow-striped curtains/ in front of the restaurant in the photo
recall the old Cuba: shineshine from the sun/ and so much happiness! The laundry on the
rack/ is like mine, but mine is new. I know/ what it’s like to have someone tearing up my
calendar, erasing my holidays. I write down what I need and move on:

Andrew Moore
El Rapido, Havana

Dye-coupler Print

Edward Burtynski
Shipbreaking #31, Chittagong, Bangladesh

I spent all morning with my face/ in the sun/
reading and eating cookies/ until the awful conversation with you,
I think the photographs are helping./ Right in the middle of this print
it says/ NO SMOKING/

don’t worry, huge ship with your hull broken off
in hell-orange water where your face floats away in pieces/
I quit smoking/ and you/
you who always reflected so majestically in your own oil spills,
what do you know about lungs?

Gelatin Silver Print

James Nachtwey

The top of his ear is gone/
the bottom is gashed/ the part for listening/ was intruded upon.

His mouth is open.
From the top of his mouth, the longest machete mark connects
and goes back across the side
to the neck
to the hand
he’s holding there, three
moon-luminous fingernails
covering his neck. Eyes down
mouth open.

My face is reflected in the glass of the frame and I am crying
a fainter image, but there. My face
smooth and warm and never cut-up but chapped by the cold sometimes,
have you ever seen the snow? I whisper to the man in the picture.
I would wear your face
for a while. If you needed to trade. So you could heal.

All of the sudden touching my smooth face is sickening.

“Were you tortured?”
The man standing next to me asks.
Suddenly his face is in the glass of the photograph too.
“What?” I ask, sure I hadn’t heard correctly.
“Was he tortured?” The man asks a little bit louder. “It looks like barbed wire was
wrapped around his face.” The man’s young sons rush
over to us out of nowhere. I don’t want to talk about it in front of children.
I don’t want them to see it, but their father doesn’t seem to care.
No, it wasn’t barbed wire/ what you’re seeing above and below these gash-scars/ are
places where his face was stitched up/ and it healed over/ so when the stitches were
pulled out they left these raised dots./ I can see why you would think it was barbed wire,
but look here/ where the top part of his ear was chopped off, look at the places on his
scalp where he didn’t have any stitches./

Machetes/ look at the date, the date should tell you right away what we’re looking at
here/ genocide.

Bomb Threat

I was eating cookies all morning./ I really don’t care if you think that’s not a miracle./
You can’t always see miracles/ up close/ at least not right away./ Up close everything is
streaming/ organisms under the microscope in quicktime/ this isn’t a threat/ or a bomb.
The most important thing to remember about miracles is that sometimes you see them
and sometimes you don’t./ Bomb/ my throat closes up with embarrassment just to write
the word on the page/ threat. Cookies in the morning. One morning a decade ago Mike
and I were driving on a Long Island road we’d been on one hundred times before/ when
the car in front of the car in front of us/ was hit and it flipped/ and we managed not to hit
it but could hear the person in the upside-down car screaming. We didn’t know what to do.

Two lives later (lives meaning two boyfriends later/two breakdowns/two different
perfumes) the night was breathing black velvet darkness under a canopy of trees in the
jungle/ in Chiapas/ when the car crash split open that animal silence/ and the screaming
driver dying human-howling into the night/ knowing there weren’t any police or doctors
coming/ just teenagers with huge guns who didn’t know what they were doing/
like I don’t know what I am doing
writing your bomb threat for you
sitting at my desk in my little office now
feeling like a stupid tourist in my own life
eating cookies all morning
trying to explain pen-to-paper-to-you
how it is/ why you shouldn’t do this.

Saturday, February 14, 2009


for Jed, on Valentine's Day

There’s a new perfume called Flowerbomb.
It is part garden and part war.
For a sexy, dangerous springtime. You could loose a leg
or gain a lover. Or both.

When I was a girl I loved this one particular pink nail polish
so much I used it to paint nipples on all my Barbie dolls.
My Barbies had crushes on boys in my class. I told them
not to get their hopes up. They were pretty, but they weren’t interesting.

I loved having a new crush like I loved putting on a new sweater.
A movie cowboy once said, sometimes you wear the sweater
and sometimes the sweater wears you. Sometimes the garden explodes
all over your neck
and you thought you were just putting on perfume or having sex
or stopping to smell the bombs.

A bride with a cigarette is not a pretty picture. While you are wearing
your wedding veil make sure not to smoke.

says Emily Post Weddings circa 1963.
(I found the book at the dump and decided to keep it.)

According to tradition, the groom buys the finest gift he can afford
as a lifetime treasure for his bride.

I write explanatory notes in the margins:
Something you can pawn if you need to make a quick getaway.
You need to be able to pull a string
so your life will turn into one gigantic flotation device
so the plane crash will be subtle
serene almost, picturesque
like a squad of coast guard boats storming toward you in the Hudson
while you watch the sunset rainbow-out into the pollution over the skyline.

Money, and things that are worth lots of money, can never be more than
a flotation device (when you’re drowning,)
a taxi and a hotel room (when you’re leaving,)
something beautiful to hold, if you’re alone (when you’re dying.)

And then everything you’ve kept your whole life will either become someone else’s heirloom
or go to the dump. (Most of it will go to the dump.)
So smoke cigarettes at your wedding if you want to,
and be sure the person you’re marrying
will whisper to you that you’re wonderful
when he thinks you’re asleep. Last night

I was dreaming about ice cream
and a freezer full of HÄAGEN-DAZS opened to me and I took one but then looked up and there was a whole row of Ben and Jerry's and I dropped the HÄAGEN-DAZS and was about to take a Ben and Jerry’s and then I looked up again and there were rows of old-fashioned milk bottles with layers of home-made ice cream and cake and I was looking at those for a while and then at the very top of the freezer was my favorite—Udder Delight—a little ice cream shack on route five that makes the best ice cream I’ve ever tasted and there was only one little carton but I dropped everything and grabbed it and then realized it was talking to me, it had been talking to me the whole time, saying:

I love you.
You’re so beautiful.
You, Rena, are so special.

I opened my eyes to my future husband, facing
me in bed, saying these things to my sleeping face,
hoping for them to slip into my dreams, and they did.

As I write all this, filling the margins of the little manners book right up
so my possible-someday-children or grandchildren
might know something more about the myriad truths of life,
I realize I’m leaving out the most important part
so I scribble; pick love, pick love, go for LOVE
on every page. Now they’ll think I was a nut.
They’ll probably think that anyway. At least I’m trying
to give advice. At least I’m not being cryptic. At least I’m not a language poet.

Wedding cake
cake icing
icy road
road turns
turns back
back woods
wood winds
wind chill
chill champagne
champagne Wedding.

Plastic propriety
propriety pantomime
pantomime pantoum
pantoum poem
poem reader
reader Rena
Rena rose
rose flower
flower bomb.

Thursday, January 29, 2009


I was a river and everything growing around me was wild and dangerous.
Naked women swam with sea-girls there,
adventurous navigators picked my flowers for crowns.
Then I was crowned and buried alive
and I became a music, from the earth, steady
and loud, in competition with all the other musics.

You offered me a towel
and wiped dirt off my old face, you
took me in a canoe out on the ocean, to a small island
where we were the only people. We saw a baby
deer there and named him. I told you I was the deer also.
You said, there is nothing wrong with you.

I was a voluptuous island, heady and sure,
I thought I was making noises
no one else could make or hear.
But you caught the song, like a ball, one hand up in the air.
You waved. You asked if you could come in.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Poem for Jed

Poem for Jed
On the Morning of Your 29th Birthday

I say forever when all I know is today
and today and today. I love you.
I love you now at your new number
I love all our yesterdays
all of our numbers and accumulating ages.

Each day full of love
crystallizes during the night,
becomes another layer around my heart,
so every morning I love you more. Every morning
I pull you in, between blanket, pillow, mattress and bed frame.
Every morning the bed is full of our sleep-heat,
as dreams become see-through
then all-edges
then invisible.
I get hungry first
for kisses. Your kisses hunger for coffee
and to be awake fully again.

The moon hangs over the mountains on the other side of our big windows.
The orange sun will start to beat soon. First lining the edges
of the clouds with light
then coloring everything orange and pink
just before floating it’s face
up across the new sky
like a flag to make the day official.

By then we’re already in the car on the way to work.
I am saying how beautiful the day is,
how lucky we are,
to be driving into cold, brilliant
mornings like these.

But what I mean is
how beautiful you are
and how lucky I am

to say forever
with you

to say forever
and mean

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Night in Winter

for J.E.D.

Everything autumn crayola-dreamed
is covered by snow now. Ice blooms and is dangerous.
Branches glow out the window, in periwinkle-velvet winter light,
the exact opposite of ordinary kitchen darkness.

The snow in front of the barn is red-and-blued as Christmas
lights slow-blink. Green fingers touch stars,
tingle, and grow into the inky sky. Aurora Borealis moves

gently across the old night in the north.
From behind

the mountains,
the moon comes and comes and comes.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

He’s Just Not That Into You

Cause you’re like: “Meth, meth, pot, gay sex…meth”
of course that old guy sitting in the front row
of your reading was sniffing and bristling and fussing.

Maybe it was Salinger?

I don’t want to think of Salinger as fussy.
Besides, he probably doesn’t go to readings.
Joke-talk-tease, but if it was J. D. Salinger
at my reading, scowling and old,
then I have to re-think everything, starting here,
starting with this old scratched-up laptop computer,
and the collection of poetry I took to the toilet
with me this morning after my tea. Hey! My novella isn’t like:
meth, meth, pot, gay sex…meth
that is not a real line, but I’ll put it in this poem,
along with a confession: I am embarrassed to read from my novella out loud.

Maybe I’m a fruitcake.

A fancy Christmas fruitcake. With an inner voice
corrupted by too much TV watching, this voice says:
It’s okay. It’s okay if it was Salinger, look, he’s just not that into you.
I reach for an irregular chocolate,
(I thought it was a French name, pronounced E-rheg-U-lahr)
the smell comes out of the box first, they’re fresh and all jumbled together:

I am the coconut cream!
I am the dark chocolate peppermint!
I am the yucky nougat one!

I knew it. How could Salinger like a nasty nougat like me?
I am tempted to eat the whole box of chocolates and hide
under the covers till Prince Charming comes home from work,
throws off his snowy cape and kisses me. Okay, if that’s the plan,
where do I hide the empty box? Fairy tales and sit-coms don’t teach you that.

I’ve just written something else I’ll be embarrassed to read out loud.
Oh, here’s a milk chocolate hazelnut cream.

Don’t you get it Salinger? I thought I was a gay man!
Don’t you have television out there in the woods?