poems by Rena J. Mosteirin

Blog Archive

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.