poems by Rena J. Mosteirin

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Sunday, December 18, 2011

To The President of France

The girls put the fly in the spiderweb
because they are girls, curious with hands
fast enough to catch (despite the multi-faceted eyed fly,
so small and so quick) they are so clever
and true to their own satiety
to want to watch

the moment when the spider fattens itself.
Girls, they feed they spider, girls
if the President of France knows more people with cancer
than models he has fucked,
always feed your punishments
with many-eyed crimes

because someday in the incognito of heartburn and sunglasses,
everyone you know will be dying of cancer too.
Bodies fill with blind tumors, oh, what good
are eyes in all the murk of this world anyway?

Thursday, December 8, 2011


Dueling omens put a spell on fashion,
they threw in divination of the future,
complicating the delusion of money
and poisoning manners. Last night

I drempt of money mania.
Knave/ madman/ magistrate/ rogue.
She says it's called "The Southern Divorce"
(making it sound fashionable, like a perfume or a style of dress

in the abracadabra of it all)
when a woman kills her husband.

While ruminating on the first days of 1900,
wear a shawl because it is cold in New Hampshire.
Learn a new waltz this year./ Waltz by the sea.

Have erotic railroad dreams
in which you are a mine. Coal, iron, steel,
come from you/ come back to you
everything huffing and rushing and quick.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Stuffing Person Whipped

cakes spring
cream on
sauce toast
tarts satay pigs

sables foccacia and local organic
smoked, sliced, Scottish in our own

served with our country
misty knoll sun-dried spiced manchego

with our Maine
with our Tartar

stuffing person whipped
creamed gratin

local organic
local organic
local organic
local organic


Vermont our own
our own

*denotes vegetarian

Monday, November 21, 2011

When We Are Poor

When we are poor, one hardcover
at the bookstore is worth two paperbacks
so we try not to look at the secure covers too long. Later
at the public library it translates unconsciously
(my purse full of call-numbered paperbacks)
and we never question it, telling ourselves
we read what we've earned. (Paper my back
because I do not own a home.) We spend
our wickedly lonely days eating pound of pink
lipstick and listening
(rooms full of voices) to all histories (in all languages)/ hear;
pains of regret/ pains of extinction.

Try writing the great questions in hot pink lipstick on the mirrors
(of the soul) Is there a God? (and)
Who wants to know?

Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Tumor That Was Actually A Wing

Putting her arm around the tree, she leaned into the quickening;
roots, branches/ her hair hastening to bark,

she was starting to the stick to that tree from the empty space
where the tumor that wasn't a tumor

had been disconnected/ pulled out
and it was found to be a wing, lost/ longing towards every bird.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011




Whisper a portrait in miniature,
kiss everywhere but the small mouth,
steam across the sky/ in shout sounds.

Paint the miniature whisper,
do what she says with that small mouth/ kiss
and shout over the sound of steam.

Whisper, whisper/ paint portraits in miniature
kisses small but everywhere the mouth
shout across the sound, across the steamy sky.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011


Here is the world: Mother Enter and Father
Exit, in puddle iron latticework. Abandon your city,
abandon your home-made parachute
in favor of radiant energy.
Cosmic rays, come
scrape the sky, and mean it.

Ask generations of math
questions of pig iron,
questions of wind resistance.
Here is the hex: a cave wall picto-recipie
for a very pure form of structural poison.

We begin with a small sample. Does it work?
Are you immune to bites, to jumps? Only one way
to find out. I will set the stakes up high,
we can perch your tent on top; your snakes, your Jesus.

As the Eiffel Tower spreads her legs,
you take/ my perfumed hair for granted.
The iron lady in an apple-mythed world, fucked,
between/bites, you take
the high road/ only one way to the sky, you say.

The world is made of towers
and so many ways to fall.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

There is always a fire

At first it was all quantum vs. classical,
momentum vs. position, until we found
abstract matrix expressions and
we formulated new questions then, like:
What do you do when your house is on fire?

If you can move fast enough, time will slow down
to meet you in the middle.

There is always a fire
but it's not always your house that's being destroyed.
It's essentially the stranger-on-a-train theory:
once you're out of sight, once no one who knows your name
can see you, then you'll be just another stranger on a train.
But if I can run fast enough
there's a certain speed at which time will slow for me
and I will lunge for the caboose.

reality layers

the war effort consisted of goat cheese with ash
(I had ashy knees throughout the entire war)
the ash effort was worthy, the art we made was not
(I made heat-art with my body, with yours)
there are layers in the way we read reality
(everything you say is in code)
the air is thick with reality
(air layers around us)
love wafts up
(sinking ships)
love sinks

Sunday, October 9, 2011


Disregard tactile mistakes made with paper
as all the trains arrive based on the magnetism of the stations anyway.
Watch as they spin on their orbits
dazzling in the clear light: there are no more schedules.

Time moves backwards and forwards simultaneously.
Keep telling the clocks that.

Then say: Do not explode. Do not give up.
Keep ticking anyway, though it is not the truth.
Develop appetites for food, for sex,
you must keep on spinning/ no matter how uncertain/ this whole spinning thing is.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Describing Physics

Orbits of electrons describe
the dancing of planets around our heads

if you sit very still they will fill you with spin
and if you spin very fast you'll find the door to their cave

where stillness breathes
but only by night, when

the universe looks itself in the owl-eyes
and sees the stillness and the spin, dancing

which both repels and abstracts
orbits at night, toward

the dance, the dance:
around my head, around yours.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Her Pirate History

Lobster-red lipstick/ the face she makes is either sexy red grimace or heartburn red/ red silk on the underside of crimson velvet/ red blood in the mouth of cringing Byron/ fingerless red gloves/ eggs Rhode-Island red/ brown and white ponies with sharp red morning roses woven into their braids/ red stones round their ankles in decorative circles/ she exhales red petals into the blush of day/ when she opens her mouth to sing cardinals echo in their red velvet capes/ they match reds but their voices bear no similarity/ when she sees red she can breathe red/ she will touch red with her red tongue/ golden threads twist red/ the red of a match head/ red head/ red wreck/ red meat/ red of birth and death/ red of plastic and red of cars/ redolent fingers dipped in red ink/ red stains from red drinks/ red ribbons pulled between red-painted toes/ red bites from red snakes/ new warmth from red hued bourbon/ red of failure/ red of success/ red feathers and red hairs/ red cheeks in cold air/ ruined red/ party red/ end red/ army red/ redwood/ red beans/ Redbeard/ sunset red/ red dripping on the floor/ Russian red/ red trees bleeding red apples/ red letters making red words/ red curls catch red light/ talk red talk till the ripe red sun rises/ every instrument has a red tone/ every prison a red cell/ she is red for him/ he is red for her/ she calls red in her sleep and it reddens her dreams/ search the register for true red/ pick through every red twist and manifestation of redness/ nervous in red hives/ red shoes and hats and hairpins/ red insects full of red blood/ red brick houses full of heat/ out the corners of her eyes the red walls change their brightness to moves in the music that only her red ears can catch/ the red of rain/ the red wish to live/ red vine licorice candy/ the exposed red nostrils of a sick horse/ a red rear kick/ red step/ red-blindness/ a quiet red bell/ red moon shining on red sand beaches/ red fox/ red ants/ red picnics/ red barns with red animals inside them/ the red to remember/ the red loss/ chemical red/ red ties/ red blossoms/ red paper/ cinnamon red hot candy/ red flecks floating in golden irises/ red problems with red cures/ fickle red family/ red doors open to red theaters where they read red plays/ red suits/ red tickets/ red uniforms/ red breasts, hopping around the green lawn on the first day of spring/ red hot chili peppers/ reasonable red/ useful red/ the minister of red/ red chance/ a sultry scoop of red powder/ red velvet cake/ red clay/ red wine/ scraped red knees from falling off the red bike/ a red wish for july sky-fire/ a red fish for a red table/ cut dead by red relations/ red carpet for red slippers to tread red steps/ she’s so red/ reading red leather-bound books/ red holly berries on slick black Christmas branches/ the red whistle of the red train/ even if she was very, very, red she could not stay/ red rims of eyes/ red veterans in red graveyards/ abundance was red and lack of abundance was also red/ red leaves fell from red maple trees/ at the end of the red road is the red queen and the fire-fairies/ everything will be paid for in red; children, countries/ everything bleeds the same red light.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

American Drama

Flag. Boy Scout. Mountain Climber. Play.
He wakes up and knows it is all a play

or a movie, because the audience is so silent and so still he can't see them
but the cameras are everywhere. Each person he passes on the street

has a pair of high-res camera eyes. Flag-waving
he wears the costume of a Boy Scout. That's why bearded men stare at his face.

In the play he is a mountain climber. That's why.
He acts all the way to the top of the mountain

that's when he first knows he's alone. The girl
at the counter is giving phone directions

grey building; sign out front; the north side of 3rd street.Here
comes an ambulance wide like an open mouth

bleeding sound south, towards the college. It is so easy
to pretend this is a movie about college, or a play about America.

Monday, September 12, 2011


Sleep the twilight of the nipple,
in the twilight of the arm, sleep
until dawn takes shape around suffering
and day takes shape around joy.

Noon hangs true, halfway through
loving you, the world goes blue,
in the twilight of the berry,
in the twilight of the branch.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Song of the Concertina Lemon

A beaker of bleach
bangs the bell of the ship, she is

blind but for this color yellow,
because she walks in beauty with the night, her daytime eyes are dim.

So I paint myself in sunshine, for her/ every morning
buttercream beyond legend/ the blondes of combustion

in the history of poetic nitroglycerine/ the day-true
story locked up in the sunflower sun.

My bright whalemoon
hung true halfway in the twilight

and halfway in the night.
I would die and be a lemon tree/ all fruit in her sight and she

would tell me through my roots
all the water-secrets. Yes, dear

she would whisper gold-truth into hard old ears.
When she died, the stars shut their eyes,

and all the world dreamed in black.
That day I left home for the whale road.

Thursday, August 25, 2011



The Pequod’s weedy hull

the barnacled hulls of the Leviathan;

appreciative and understanding

revelations and allusions

are to follow. no easy task. the classification

of chaos, nothing less


utter confusion (sperm whale), says

to have ones hands among the unspeakable foundations,

ribs and very pelvis of the world;

What am I that I should essay to hook the nose of this Leviathan!

Will he (the Leviathan) make a covenant with thee?

I have swam through libraries

I have had to do with whales with these visible hands

lungs and warm blood;

a spouting fish with a horizontal tail.

There you have him.

The Leviathanic brotherhood

the grand divisions of the entire whale host.


Sperm Whale

used for light,

an ounce of rhubarb

in the course of time,

to enhance it’s value by a notion so strangely significant.

Right Whale

the most venerable of the Leviathans, he is

The Whale; True Whale;

it is the whale some pretend to see

they precisely agree

the Right Whale.

Fin Back

a monster


the whale so often descried in New York

in his baleen, His great lips

his name, a conspicuous object projecting from the surface.

He seems a whale-hater as some men are men-haters.

a tall misanthropic Leviathan Cain

bearing upon his back. the fisherman or hump or fin

to defy all whale-naturalists in his anatomy

into the bowels of various Leviathans

the whales bodily proceed.

Hump Back

is often American. He has towed a peddler;

Elephant and Castle distinguish him, a hump,



gamesome and light-hearted

making more gay foam than any other of them.

Razor Back

off Cape Horn

of nature both hunter and philosopher

coward, Let him go.

Sulphur Bottom

Gentleman with brimstone

the Tartarian tiles

profounder seldom seen; the seas study his countenance.

He is chased; he with rope walks

Prodigies can say nothing more that is true of ye, Nantucketer.


a proverb to landsmen, a denizen among whales

possessing all the grand distinctive features

He is moderate

fifteen to twenty-five feet in length,

swims in herds;

hunted, for light.

regarded as great

Black Fish

the Hyena whale, voracity well known

an everlasting Mephistopholean grin on his face.

He has a peculiar Roman nose.

the Sperm capture the Hyena to keep

for domestic employment—as frugal housekeepers,

some of these whales will yield


his peculiar horn sixteen feet in length,

it does not seem like the blade of the sword-fish and bill-fish,

the Narwhale employs a rake Charley Coffin said

an ice-piercer; for the Narwhale breaks through.

But cannot prove in reading pamphlets

of the Unicornism in every kingdom.

Queen Bess did gallantly wave her prodigious long horn

in the castle at Windsor of the Unicorn nature.


the Nantucketer

the professed Naturalists

we are all killers


He mounts the Folio whale’s back

he works his passage by flogging him,

some schoolmasters get along in the world by similar process.

Both are outlaws even in the lawless seas.

Huzza Porpoise

All over the globe I call him

They are the lads that always live up before the wind.

Heaven help ye; his jaws in request

among jewelers and watchmakers.

It is you that a porpoise spouts.

It is you

Algerine Porpoise

in the Pacific.

he will buckle to a shark

I have lowered for him

Mealy-Mouthed Porpoise

the only English porpoise,

less jolly

quite neat and gentleman-like

sentimental Indian eyes of a hazel hue.

distinct as the mark in a ship’s hull.

he just escaped


A rabble of uncertain, fugitive, half-fabulous whales,

which, I know by reputation,

by their forecastle appellations;

following whales according to Leviathanism stated at the outset,

be here, and at once

see that I have kept my word.

This is an erasure poem which employs the entire Cetology chapter of Moby-Dick. For more erasure poetry please see The Place of Ahab posted earlier this month. I am currently engaging with Moby-Dick in a series of erasure poems as well as tweeting a line a day on Twitter--follow me at WWhaleCrossing.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

When I looked up

attractiveness in the dictionary
it said: attractiveness is not always chemistry. Look up
when it rains, when the sunflowers are throwing themselves from side to side,
then look down, at the ants all over your sneakers,
attracted, chemically, just look down
and love them.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Sweet Pretty

Sweet pretty the bees buzz beside me

they nuzzle but they don’t sting.

Have you ever felt a hundred

live velvet bodies yearning and twisting

through you to get to the queen?

A galaxy of eyes. Perhaps, yes.

Insect eyes know that every star is looking back at you

but not every gaze can be turned into a door,

some are always tunnels and will always go underground

while other eyes send you sideways

leave you shimmying towards the edge of the world.

There is a skinny, velveteen edge,

it’s not possible to see it without falling. Every eye that sees the edge

gets the look turned back on itself: click:

now the lock, click, the next time the door opens

there will be only sky past the threshold

and all thresholds dissolve, no matter how you scream.

So try not to scream

and don’t write macabre notes or poetry,

sweet, pretty and sad.

It doesn’t matter what you do, actually

they will always say you jumped.

Perhaps, yes. Perhaps you did.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

The Place of Ahab

The place of Ahab

the vacant post;
the rocking boat,
When I reached it, it had subsided to a creamy pool
black bubble at the axis
the black bubble upward burst;
the coffin life-bouy
shot lengthwise from the sea,
Buoyed up by that coffin,
sharks, they glided by
the savage sea-hawks sailed with sheathed beaks.
The devious-cruising Rachel
after her missing children.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

The Tree Eaters

sit at fresh picnic tables and drink mint juleps, saying:

old oak tastes different than young,

though anything I can snap

between my teeth and cluck with my tongue will satisfy my mouth

but smell drives the drives and feeds the fires.

Cucumber tastes nothing like it smells, but very much the way it looks.

Cantaloupe is the smell of true childhood love.

Old books smell different than young books and you sit there,

reading with your eyes, like vision is the only thing that matters.

I can’t taste fire

it is just a sound in my mouth.

A hiss and then that simple silence: the sound of the heat sinking in.

A terrible weight of pain through my jaw

destroying the bottom half of my summer-song.

So I start to nibble the picnic table with my top teeth

and it tastes exactly as it smells. I tap out, in Morse code;

cucumber, cantalaope, mint;

someday summer will be childhood again. I half-smile

and all the sunflowers bloom and turn in agreement.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Good Day

Start with a million dollars, start two generations ago

in a New York that no one

would recognize now. Elephants, yes

and giraffes. Left to your real life

which didn’t begin until your first safari when you heard the lions

singing in London/ singing keep on keeping on

a hundred years ago/ it was Christmas, right,

but there was no Christmas, only hibernation

(no orphans, only Dickens’s imaginings)

and the bears were fighting all the time, right,

then they would make-it-up with dancing. Keep left.

Who doesn’t like dancing?

When you get back to New York everything is NEW and you

crave constant civil crush.

Blonde drama. Colors changing. Hooves. Lost sunglasses. Loss. Song.

Then the dancing bears lay down to sleep

beside the white piano, turn right,

get on the ship, sure, just keep on keeping on,

or, if you prefer, everything is gonna be alright.

On the ship you caught the fish that jumped silver straight up out of the water.

You taught the fish to talk, to smile

and they would sound like cab drivers

some nights, saying : listen buddy, relax

at the end of the day if you got five dollars left, I’d say it was a good day.

So you’d tell them where to go. Left, right/ other times you’d teach

them a word, blush/ and they’d hang on to the word like a hook in the mouth:

fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck./ Just say it was a good day.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

For the Marriage of Faustus and Helen

And you may fall downstairs with me
With perfect grace and equanimity.
Or, plaintively scud past shores
Where, by strange harmonic laws
All relatives, serene and cool,
Sit rocked in patent armchairs.

-Hart Crane

Something smells sadly
of cat piss and cigarettes this morning, though
two nights ago it was all blue herons
and drunkenly kissing dim-eyed boys at midsummer parties
in perfect dresses. We will dance you
around and around and behind ourselves.
Which self is that/ smelling so sadly
smoking/ and cursing at cats, when just
two nights ago it was all blue dresses
and drunk/ in the age of herons,
dim kisses, times of much
wet touches in the muck of heart/home pond
you can’t get there
unless I tell you where it is. Here’s a hint:
it disappears when we’ve gone a week without rain,
and then the sad captain will offer you his services for free.

Muck and plenty, water and turtles/ put
there in the heart-shaped pond
behind the main house, down the treacherous slope,
steep but clean, dangerous but beautiful,
so slip your high-heels off, so
wonderful to see, so terrible to touch
heart-shaped turtles take square bites
and the grass is hard and brown
until you get to the murk and then it’s worse.

Kid heroes must die for the sacrifice to mean something.
A goat is a fake kid and a slaughter is a gift.
The giver gets a chance to make this year’s harvest the best
and all the remaining virgins look so much more beautiful
(but much more nervous, more prone to breaking
in the nervous hours, and loud)
letting everyone know: THIS IS NOT A TEST.
It gets so bad, women are afraid to have babies,
so they hold them in.

Then the bridal party comes along, changes the form. With texts:
If you don’t do this for me, I will put my cell-phone pictures
of you throwing him into the volcano
on Facebook.

They make lists until they fall asleep
and then make more lists in their dreams.

No, the singers can’t walk with Helen—they will be up in the wings
they will all be wearing the same thing
and they will sing.

Drifting off to sleep, her beautiful mouth works the darkness
—ordering her bridesmaids—
Helen names names...

Tuesday, July 12, 2011


Rena J. Mosteirin
Eaten by a shark.

Thursday, July 7, 2011


Planes, fireworks, thunder/ when America
is at war, we should refrain
from celebrating like this. The sky is too much,
upset like a child with candy-store eyes and a full-sick belly
running sparks on the neighborhood.

In times of war the sky should hold all breath/ roll no thunder
planes should stay on the ground/ children in the house/ and we should refrain.

Take the urge of run and the lift of flight
the ur of burn/ world, whole
farm-war, forest war, valley-war/ when America
wars we take word-sounds and make them flat-fast to the page
with letters standing in for sounds our mouths won't make/ burning old names
with new fire and if the smoke blows East, we dance farm-war wise,
if West, we will drink our coffee forest-war style,
if the smoke blows South, all the slave-ghosts rise in valley-war
and if the smoke blows North, all the whales sing to sound the smoke out
and the operator translating from the whale song
(the song which took shape in smoky air and sound waves pulled through the water
into words the whales caught to keep)
learns the whales fear
that war will put an end to all ears and to all music.

The crows are all a-caw today/ what do they say and why
do they turn the pre-dawn sky into a flutter of caw and crisis,
the campus into a tabernacle of shiny black squawk?
What of the long power of feathers/ spread lovely on the ground after flight,
or was it fight? It is now all aftermath, either way.

We will fill their hollow bones with squid ink
and dance them in letters, whole words across the page, our own
inky incantations mimicking the biggest crow left as he barks the sun up
from the other side of the world.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

After Making Ecstatic

After flight I am always wakeful;
After flowering/ delicious;
After gardens I am fence-lines, tree-songs, bird-paths.

After rain/ always ice cream.
After making ecstatic love/ poetry.

And yet/ nest.
And yet/ soil.
And yet/ the sky.
And yet/ ice cream.

If the ocean is the voice of the Earth,
then here is how humankind attempts

a tree: heart.
Fire makes clear the possibility

for a foundation, establishes red while orange gestates new
and the heart roots through

as the sun digests, all yellow./ If we make armroots and legroots
if breath is carried from the lungroots to the bloodroots,

if my head is all purple eyes and white cloudy cauliflower brain,
if the heart roots entirely throughout the body,

then/ here
then/ now
then/ you
then/ me.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Red in Tornado Times

Bourbon is a dull light in the murk of my blood. Bourbon is rain
on the flat, waxy leaves of the tropical trees in Kentucky.
After a storm, bourbon steams through the streets.
During sex, beer listens behind a door
and bourbon is the old quilt, rumored
to have your great-grandmother's wedding dress lace
faded to shreds somewhere, and a square
of her bridesmaid's red as well.
Bourbon makes me drunk behind my eyes.
Beer makes me drunk in front of my face
and leaning into its darkness.
Ten years it lives in that barrel, turning brown
with sap, with bark
--flavors taken from breaking down--
into sugar, into fire
into hot sparks of red flare in my mouth.

Red cardinal on dun colored dead leaves.
White opossum noses through the downed
trees, rat-tailed but sniffing like a kitten. A rabbit hops a swath
through, just a visible cotton tail and then gone,
the opossum takes this as a trail
and the cardinal hops in the opposite direction, witness
their homeless behaviors, this will continue until a new index is made
step by step and smell by smell, until the forest is readable again.
Home is nothing like yesterday
much more like tomorrow.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Tornado Cuts A Smile Through The Night

Everything yesterday grew is stem-snapped today,
flowers are floating in the flooded streets
each a dead eye. Don't trust
anything this thick atmosphere whips up. Wind comes in the night,
with speed that breaks my sleep. Here's the game:
when the tornado siren goes off, take a shot
whiskey is best, but anything you've got around the house will do.
Rock me to sleep in the closet, Wind,
the whiskey makes it easy but you make it fun.

Saturday, May 21, 2011


This bench makes me a child
as my feet don't touch the ground, dangle; the white smell of sunscreen
makes me a child with a piece of hard candy in my mouth
neither sucking nor biting/ letting it melt
the way old stories melt and pour
into each other/ wine through the mouth
and the hard candy of memory melts
turns my jagged dog teeth blue.

Bells and bells and bells
the sound is silver hungry
the sound is sacred.

God is always hungry.
An empty belly burning towards doing something foolish.
My heart is green
a hummingbird's tender shake
just a quiver of a body, looking at you
I can see your hummingbird heart, same as mine.

As we get older, the green loses her luster.
Older, she is the wax green of a crayon, then
the sharp green tip of a colored pencil
then an old green leaf and then ash, nothing, not even a memory anymore.

Mushrooms come in a rush of rain
until the yellow-blue sky wakes you
and you start to build your heart again, grain by grain
with the green of grass and the buzz of wings,
the heart-bud gathers electricity to itself.

robin heart and my heart
(bouncing in the grass)
horse heart and my heart
(with pounding hooves)

and your heart and your heart and yours.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Oh Home

See how they dig down now, years later, what's left?
An empty grave/ old lace curtains/purple flowers
a little boy eating apples until he gets sick.
I've been here before.

Of course I can't remember the words.
I'm stuck with the tune only, as time makes lace-holes in my memories
of the shore. There's no one here, just stacks upon stacks of silent crimes.
Ocean keeps making sculpture from everything,

keeps drawing the same thing in the sand.
Oh ocean, how you give yourself away
someone's bound to notice the pattern.
(Are you sure you want to do this?)

When they finally see the design, then you will speak through it,
your wet mouth will know a hundred different ways to say home, tell them that,
tell them I went home.

Monday, May 9, 2011

To Her Hands

Lonely hearts behind high-buttoned vests
Turkey-Trotting in pouf pants with deep pockets for bidding on bachelors.
Red snowflakes on yellow wallpaper, curtains covered in dogs
followed by men, mounted for the chase.

Flowers wearing hats and thinking of love.
He dances alone in the silence of the night.
Love pinned to the brim.
She dances alone, singing to her hands.

Soda fountain. Ivory soap. You say that to all the girls.
Smell of liniment and triangular flags. The girls all twinkle back.
Paper flags strung up, dance in lines, when there is wind, and when there is no wind
the flags settle back into their geometry.

Paint the house light blue and white, then see what happens inside.
She is my sister in sickness, Ma, go to her
push her in wheelchairs on weekends. No one knows germs properly
yet. Ma suspects there's something small at work here. Little animals plotting
inch by inch invasions. That's what sickness is: invasion

through all the space left by lace. Negative spaces.
Sickness grows in the lacks. Sickness in the dips of ribbons.
The difference between people and paper
is that people can dance when there is no wind.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Ballet Gorgeous

Leg-tight boys lift girls
all-strong/ clean limb-ed in the ballet gorgeous.

Cling-dressed and faces painted
girls in arms and boys leg-tight.

Colored lights and paint-greased faces.
Girls and legs and arms and boys

and girls in arms./ Ballet boys girl-tight
painted faces and limbs clean-strong

sweaty hair sticks to lips greased
dresses cling then flare/ limbs cut clean.

Monday, April 18, 2011

On Being Breathless

Wide open windows at either end of the apartment
will allow the tornado to pass through without ripping off the roof.
This is what one gets, living on the top floor,
this and a back porch up in the flowering trees
from which to look down at the small city and smile
into the wide open
wine of the wind. In France they say the Mistral
will rip the ears off lambs.
I've never seen a lamb I didn't want to kill, God says.
The wind is slamming all the doors in the apartment now.
What sacrifice will appease the whistle? What will it take,
what here would God want?
(I've hidden away my beautiful lambs.
I cling to their oily ruffles when I am cold
they sing me to sleep every night.)
Ignore the sounds of breaking,
hush, lambs. Hold your peace.
God will forget.
God will rush on.

Monday, April 11, 2011

A Curse From the Bestiary

When this horse bites the white sides of another horse
the bites run black with blood and new vacancy. In another country,
men make horses fight in black and white.
Two bites like two dead eyes.

Bird, you can caw-haw-haowa but that's just crying. That's not flight.

The little boy with the face like a fox screams.
In black and white he bites your face
as men make horses fight in another country.

The sun comes out and the colors bleed back into the picture.
Sweet vacancy under a tree of blooming faces
sweet pear trees dropping rotten fruit on tombstones,
as he stands there looking like a small fairy-tale prince.
"A curse on you, a curse from the Bestiary," he says quietly, pointing.
Once you dreamed becoming a magnolia tree/ blooms as big as faces
but that was not to be. He could have turned you into a fainting goat
or a bird with no wings and no song. Now this is your future:

all of your lovers will turn into horses
with hunting men on their backs coming for you.
Your mother will sit by the window in the light of lamp oil
burning holes like eyes into the white side of the night.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Kiss to Kiss

A kiss on the palm /lasts/ like a plain silver ring
(on the fourth finger)

take notes/ on the trees about to bud
(trees of white kisses dropping)

down as I sleep the sleep of petals, whitely
lip by lip by lip.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Bird Painter

I will not work cages into the pattern anymore, or birds singing to no one,
in a fit of flight they hold back my heart.
Bird-hearts mend slow; glue and stitches, hollow bones, sinew and tracks,
a fine-spun air, the gentle exhalations made while painting.

In a fit of flight they hold back my heart,
I paint escapes, then cover everything in
a fine-spun air, the gentle exhalations made while painting.
I could cover over canvases with wings and fly.

I paint escapes, then cover everything in
yellowed wallpaper and I set it all on fire.
I could cover over canvases with wings and fly
but this flight is made of such old pulp/ I touch it, it starts to disintegrate,

yellowing the wallpaper and I set it all on fire.
I will not work cages into the pattern anymore, or birds singing to no one,
but this flight is made of such old pulp/ I touch it, it starts to disintegrate,
bird-hearts mend slow; glue and stitches, hollow bones, sinew and tracks.

Saturday, March 19, 2011


How did the sheep get in
the church? They keep coming
until they pack in/and we are/ wall-to-wall
with sheep. No room for pews.

They are not sheep, just cotton balls
glued to Q-tips, some with faces
and others without. This is not a church
it's just a shoebox/ I painted
plastic wrap with tempera to look like stained glass.

Did it work? Can you hear them singing hymns?

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Mountain Man

Rockscapes layer on/ like clouds here/ close your eyes, see
it feels like a horse--especially here--where the lichens make a sort of mane.

When the branches clasp hands above us/ it's time for the litany of falling leaves.
Mountain man, there is a heaven/ ringing the mountain in floating clouds

like the way you hold me/ arms wrapped around/ rings to measure by
these bell sounds and embraces/ together we become the river/ too quickly deep

your horse follows my hound/ and we both drown.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Drinking Song

I sing the cows
I sing the wetlands and the cows
I sing the wetlands and the cows and the dirt roads
all twisted and eccentric, endangered and idiosyncratic, yes
I sing and they answer me.

I can't play cards with you anymore/ you take the losses too hard.
Every big day is the same/ every day is enormous.
Lost count of the days/ I have seen/ solemn queens
and dancing madmen. I will vote them off my island.

We go back and back and back, pulling the blankets
up over our noses as foamy layers of roar
suck our toes, trying to take us out
to the ocean where the big storms are.

I drizzle and I steal pies
I try to write down the truth before the lies come on
slow-dancing lies, come on/ just, come on/ just come on...

You stumble around all afternoon drunk on sunlight
and bad directions (lies) until you find the driftwood path
just past the zigzag clubhouse/ dense flower bushes and no sign
where the path goes. Be careful when you smell
the flowers, they are bloody sea-rosed and singing boleros
to the sailors. Look, the birds don't fly here. Be careful
or you will get lost. Be careful also not to give anyone clear directions
here or you will have to share your doughnuts with them.
Oh the glazed, coconut-covered rings, just sun-warm now!

Maybe the strangers who stumble upon this place by accident
late in the afternoon will offer to share their wine with you
and you can dump your heavy tears out into the sea
(you've been holding them so close for so long)
and now the fish are all drunk on your sad sweetnesses
and now you soar/ with the fat, white gulls/ leading the charge
on the bloated dictator-crabs/ dive-bombing because
this is the cycle of things/ this is you/ caught in the act
of ocean-worship. You would sing if you could
but instead you make sweet-sea tea, doughnuts out of sand
and wine from tears fermenting in the sunlight.

You would sing if you could, but instead you lie/ sweet, saving, essential lies.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Mighty Gideon

Race the waves, race the seagulls, press the starfish
five fingers deep
with the soles of your run. Who shall stop you?
This town is just storefronts of wood and paint, here
comes the town drunk in the strongman's wheelbarrow,
they are both singing.
Surely you don't run from this?
Pick a name, my girl
pick a ship and don't waste life
time fighting the constable or the words. Run,
fight with your feet. Jump into the sea. Will it be at sea?
Will it be storms my girl? A squall or a fight with God?
Will it be a man, a duel, a plank
my darling, will you die a pirate's death?

In the swamp where snakes curl and heat
rises in/visible waves from the water heavy
and termite nests wrap around tree trunks, there is a boat

tied to one of the gnarled roots pushing
out, above and into the dank water. Painted
in sloppy old-fashioned letters on the side: Mighty Gideon

is somehow still afloat 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.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Whale Rise

Dress patterns came today from France. Layers are all the rage.
You say so in your telegram, and the onion skin layers of nutrients
feed her who has made a house of your body, layers of walls
made clear in the ultrasound. Flowers are climbing up the trellis, rising
while hollyhocks sit huge and rich and blue, in white enameled ceramic
on the table in the front room of this underwater castle.

Silk rich and blue and white this year
and it is you, leaving knuckle-marks in the dough, letting it rise
with rage at having thus been pushed down, rise as though
it could extend up to kiss the feathers of birds in the branches
feasting on song and sunshine. Everything you need to know
you left below, carved in stone.
What a voice that canvas has, what a wail
comes from pulling this ship through to the other side of the world.
That sail cries like a baby at night, but never rips.
We'll be living upside-down soon, I expect.
What animal will you be then?

I shall be a whale.
The sun will come sparkling through the trees like an Earth-sized citrine,
and the ocean will reveal itself
as day/night/sky/left/right/roof/floor,
all of the ways it is possible to be surrounded,
to be loved the way a home loves the body in it.
The sea of animal kindnesses makes whales rise
on joy. Love is currents of warm silk
in cold, rough oceans. Love is a calm.
This is what I want for us:
to wake as whales
and to know it.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Girls for Gorgeous

Let your hair down, goddesses, the pipes
play as we make merry in the afternoon garden, lace
up your sandals and I'll wear all the dresses in my closet
one on top of another, and crowns of white flowers. Today
we dance in the sun and tomorrow it's back to herding sheep.
The shepherdesses are all named for goddesses and flowers. Flower names
deceive, because it's their lovers who wilt when they are cast aside.
The ponies transport the shepherdesses who are girls forever. Girls
for gorgeous loves. Amaryllis, Rose, Plumeria
learn to dazzle but don't forget how to fly
lace up your hair and do not cry. June turns
cartwheels in the grass. The French for sea and death
sound so similar from the mouths of the flowers. The angels
saved the flowers in the springtime of their suicide,
begging the help of their dark winter.
Wild flowers, you are always everywhere. You use the Earth
to grow into your poems. Come Spring, let my loves
sing themselves into bloom again.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Prescription for Despair

Three portraits of the same woman hang
in one dull room. In the first she is surrounded
by children. In the second she is jumping off a bridge.
In the third she is giving guns to children. How they squeeze
up next to her. How they smile. Bang bang.
Trying gets in the way, she says. Just do it.
She is your mother.
I am your gun.
A raven pecks at the snow on the side of the road.
Beside the raven a fat squirrel digs.
Rainbows circle out of wet oil
enlightening this black street on a dull day.
You're trying too hard. Long live the million-heiress.
Rainbows oil-slick out from your wet heart.
What snow would you not melt for me?

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Smell of Snow

Casting open the bright back windows, this is what she wants to smell:
orange blossoms, olives, cypress, bog myrtle, jasmine, garlic and mist.
Instead it's just the smell of snow. So much snow. Too much.
Who was the first in this family to figure
planting a stand of dense trees thickly
would protect the grape arbors from that specific wind?
Nothing so sweet as the smell of snow.
It is the smell of nothing. The smell of that sweet past:
a laughing, unbroken horse
and hedgehogs having a party in a cave. Then a nap.
Safe as houses. Melodeon music. Smell of hawthorne and history.
Jaunting, wagonettes, strawboaters, snow.
Mouth-organs, side-cars, thimble-riggers, snow.
Snow is what we've kept. Snow is what will continue.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Otters In Lilac Blossoms

Well that's one way to enjoy a war. Follow the parade, the horse trail, the hawk-eyed and save the city. Exaggerate, say: "They call me Money." Take two more than you need. Call it change.

Change the nature of your fears. One warrior dreams gently. Dreams tell you to take the canoe because it's faster than otters. Follow the sunrise. Exaggerate your aim. Save the gun, wrap it in plastic and put it in the fridge.

Save the flicker in the woods. Save the trumpet. Exaggerate the differences so you can know what the enemy looks like right away, and she will know you, sexless pioneer, as otters fall in love in the lilac blossoms. Who to follow? What maps to take? What stays here, poor dear, what brave fellow feels familiar?

Take the moon out of the sky and save the sun. Follow the follower. Change the map while one weeps water and the other weeps an exaggerated blood bath.

Exaggerating otters say the trap
takes he who walks the same trail twice.
One otter says kill, then the same otter says
save. While the scout says,
"Change trails if you don't want anyone
following you down."

Follow the otters into their homes and they'll give you exaggerated reports of powder and provisions running low. This will surely change the fervor of the reinforcements. Take the war office. Save the otters. One trap kills all.

Change nothing. Follow what gets through.
One cloud over the moon greatly exaggerates the darkness. Danger
takes belief. Save your own hand. Save your own beautiful hands.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011


She hates people from India.
Because they don't kill animals.

Here there is no ocean
to reflect the sun back in scattered
handfuls over flowers and trees.
With time, all parts of the shipwreck become sand.

Shook out like chicken feed, that sunlight was.
Coastal light ducks
under the waves and sucks
ancient salt-preserved meats from shipwrecked bones.
All wrecks end in the suck.

Splash shapes cut the air and are filled with wings.
Whales taught me how to swim
(all wrecks end something)
whales taught me how
(all wrecks end)
in my dreams with the happiness that only animals can have.

Blue Tuesday