poems by Rena J. Mosteirin

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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.