poems by Rena J. Mosteirin

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Sunday, December 22, 2013


Tongues licking brackish snow, we sniff and know
where the deer lay down. What the moose want most
is the salt that melts black ice. Point sled, coast
to the road, follow hoofprints in the snow,
on sensitive noses, twitchy ears, go.
I color the snow, that’s the bluejay-boast
I am not afraid of the cold, I host
parties out here for the night trees and blow
paths between the bushes that only deer
use and we are careful not to tread. Bear
will dance in our dreams. We string apples whole,
popcorn garlands upon a midnight clear
the buck waits for us to twitch. He will tear,
as we call the moose away from the road.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013


Each time I wake makes me his sun-bright
morning pilgrim, in the sacred city
for the first time, sky-wide and sea-pretty:
my awe won’t let him fly. This is our fight.
Mystic my bed, so tonight that I might
see him as he was, childhood gritty
with stars. Boy on a pony. Is witty,
not afraid, jokes with storms on windy nights
or kisses the moon, so close the glitter
of winter in Maine, my husband, giver
of sight for snow, so I might see the white-blue
wonder: the world spinning weather bitter-
sweet the way we open cold and shiver,
in pilgrim-awe of a holy city, new.

Thursday, December 12, 2013


He saves me every second. Takes off this
day, through his clothes I can see him glow gold.
Under my skin there is a warm world, bold
for him. I unfold, bigger and all bliss.
Snowing softly it all makes sense, a kiss
in musical notes, round-headed—behold!—
sperm-tailed. Spin some soft Sunday morning cold
and make a baby against the abyss.
Hungry roots in wet soil we couple
sugar and salt deep into the brilliant
ingredients: one part want, two parts skin
turning on/ already burning/ supple
wars. Dead is dead. Love is the resilient
win: you are my ghost, but he is my twin.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013


I would say I’m sorry if I thought that
 it would change your mind, The Cure is surely
 making it worse. Should I dress-up girly,
get a drink? Make a new friend? Buy a hat?
Boys. Don’t. Cry. She smells stale like smoke and cats
Don’t inhale until she’s passed. I’m only
two clicks away. No cat, but I’m lonely
Boys don’t cry, I cry too much. Getting fat
on the salt of my tears. Death is to sleep
as marriage is to music. That’s not right.
To work is to have a use. Life, marriage
death. Marriage is to life as music keeps
breath—say nothing. I must press my lips tight
while she blows smoke in the baby carriage.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013


These women have slender legs, roll their eyes
at trite music, pour the coffee and haul
crying children to the coffee shop. All
promising brownies, cookies, scones and pies
if you just please shut up, love. Telling lies
tailored to the season; spring, summer, fall
winter goes off the edge of the world. Call
me honey. Normal hope floats. Mine can fly.
Either they starve or they are all just slim.
A genetic predisposition to
fitness looks the same as an act of will.
They pull it off. Marry rich guys like him.
Sacrifice in too-tight black and see through,
no grace here: inside she is goose-down fill.

Monday, December 9, 2013


I run to solo cello. Now you know.
I am writing a meaningful poem.
There's a name for the way I feel at home—
haunted—by the sun, the rain and the snow.
All wise instruments make wet flowers grow
and rust, scrap metal that once was new chrome.
Old atmosphere knows all. This Vermont loam
tells secrets about me that I don’t show.
You are smiling at something sad. No, dead.
I knew briefly and now I doubt that words
know themselves. Truth is in a weather-way,
and doesn’t get scared. At least I’m well-read.
I email sonnets to myself, blind herds 
of symbols and sheep. Go home. Load the hay.

Thursday, December 5, 2013


Free will means I’m at work. I have a rash.
I smile the way you smile. I send
email to myself—not to you—pretend
I'm writing poems, I don’t need work-cash
imagine if that were true. Watch me dash
away from here to you. They way you fend
me off means something. Do you want to end
to a solo cello? Or end in ash?
When you smile at sadness, that is my
smile. There is a name for that: displaced.
The second part of the symphony told
the audience secrets about me. Why
didn’t I get there first? Your death erased
you. So I stopped paining. Now I am old.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Reality TV and the Multiverse

There exists a universe parallel
and another us and another us
in the multiverse simultaneous
you are in heaven and you are in hell.
The psychic medium won’t say farewell,
she sees spirits everywhere she goes, thus
she sees in the market and makes a fuss,
must tell: “Your dead mother is here, is well.”
“It’s all a hoax,” dear husband must express.
(That place is real, I visit in my sleep,
deep dream through to where you are still alive.)
I see no harm, a spirit comes back to bless.
I think he sees it as a sort of creep.
I want some Sunday music to survive.

She goes into a house and says, “I see
your father sitting on the couch. Smoking,
did he smoke?” Daughter says yes but choking,
“Does this mean his soul is a refugee
from body, but not from couch, not from me?”
I bite my fist, on my couch, invoking 
my own, the television uncloaking
many worlds. My husband will disagree.
What about William James’ multiverse
in which the father doesn’t die? “No, no,”
my husband says. But doesn’t this show, still
there exists a world parallel and cursed?
Calmly my husband says to me “You know 
William James was talking about free will.”

Monday, November 4, 2013

Two Coffee Shop Histories

There's no evidence that this was a conspiracy.
There’s no evidence of a love affair.

Yeah, I toured with my rock and roll band.
Yeah sure, we went to Virginia. 

See, when the socialist party chief gets assassinated in 1934,
this is like the Soviet JFK—
they still don't really know who did it…

So much Civil War 
but not enough time
for all the museum tours.

And then it flips and it's the Khrushchev Period
and then everyone says Stalin did it, right? He assassinated his rival,
it makes sense. This is the story widely accepted
in most Western historiography.

I thought it was a benefit concert.
The town got some money, like 11k
and then the ticket sales went to the band.

Then they killed Alexander the Second
and that was terrorism and they didn't see themselves as terrorists.

To me, the word benefit implies that the band is doing it for free, that
they are donating the money from ticket sales.

They just thought if they killed Alexander the Second,
it would be better for them. 

The local celebrity/ and his wife/ and his daughter
they're normal people.  They're nice people.

And guess what? It wasn’t better for them.

They come into this coffee shop and everybody knows who they are but
nobody bothers about that too much. Nobody wants to bother them.

Nobody has really updated this Stalin theory until now.
There are so many things that the conspiracy theorists
point to and say: conspiracy.

Three generations of his family in our town,
we can't bother about them too much.

This one new author, he has a lot more data than anybody else has.
There are all sorts of strange details.

...caliber of celebrity,
now that Sean Connery, now that's celebrity.
If I heard his voice I would drop on the floor.

Where was his bodyguard? The party chief must have a body guard.
Stalin and Molotov, they take over the interrogation themselves.
But the bodyguard is killed in a truck accident 
on his way to be interrogated.

If I heard his voice I would drop on the floor.

This is 1934, you know.
The gulag was a revolving door.
You'd get out and you'd be blacklisted
and then within 28 days you'd be back in.

They're real nice people. That's the thing with the really rich.

The anarchist party had its heyday earlier.
It's really the Mensheviks and the Socialist revolutionaries at this point.

Jut out jaw, scowl frozen in place--that's an old money face.
That's not an actor face.

The propaganda is that there were always agents collaborating with outside forces.
His evidence is strong.

Thursday, October 24, 2013


When we’re done inventing geological processes
we'll all just be layers anyway, same-same but different,

/igneous layer cake/ metamorphic lasagna/
roadkill squirrels turned to touchstones,

but Henry, you are made of martinis and ice cream.
Remember Tom Hanks in that movie 

about that war? You took me to the movies
the night my father was taken to jail

and all around me in the theater
people were crying.

I guess that was the point: crying with a group of people.
How do I think this through? How can I help

but look at squirrels differently,
now that I've seen so many dead squirrels?

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Amerikan Oktoberfest

The car in front of us stops abruptly on the highway.
The driver gets out and vomits.
We swerve.

Death appears as an attractive teenage girl
chanting: always have him wanting more…
She tells the others girls to dye their hair blonde

because the boys love it.
Sometimes I’m told I look Chinese.
No one knows what I am:

shooting star or falling star—
aren’t they the same thing?—
it’s problematic in translation: up or down,

so I sing silly songs instead.
Mother says I ruin my face with sun and smiling:
I can never be Miss Gottschee.

But most Americans have no idea
what the fuck that is anyway,
so who cares, I’m not beautiful.

Even if the city falls
and even if your lover kills himself
even when a strange man forces you to

and your parents keep locking you up.
When you start to cry
they lovingly give you pills so you can’t

learn the Greek and Roman myths
and all of Shakespeare
and if you are still not beautiful

you might want to become a skeleton.
You begin to see everything as bone,
placeholders for souls.

You grew up chubby and mixed
not beautiful like Aunt Karen
who was Miss Gottschee.

Don’t smile so hard, mother said
so you try to develop a comical ironic edge
like an older woman in a sports tee-shirt that says “Cougars!”

or an elderly Mexican woman wearing one that says “Barely Legal”
--isn’t wit a kind of beauty?
Oktoberfest has it’s own version of everything. A heart attack

for the man on the stage, the drummer, in the Oompah band
(there was no recorded sound when he fell
but I swear I heard a thump)

it should have been a false beat
but it lives as a silent note
the heart that didn’t

and as the ambulance backed up the stage the band kept playing
yes, the band kept playing
the sun set

the crowd got drunker
the stars shot and fell
and all I could see was that you and I were to be married

and somehow we wandered over to the members of the band
on their break, wanting to get the full story of the heart attack
but they got our story instead: Engagaed? Yes!

“She’s beautiful,” the lead singer said,
“She’s beautiful, I hope you tell her that every day.”
They wanted to play at our wedding.

They gave us their beer tickets.
I scrutinized our new friends, all senior citizens:
the lead with the fake blonde braids attached to the plastic Viking hat

the one with the silver buckles on her lederhosen shining
the man who’d embroidered the Eidelweiss himself.
We took their drink tickets, got drunk and drove home

in the morning we’d realize what a horrible idea
it would be to have them play at our wedding
but I sang songs in German all the way home:

Veronica der lens ist da
die Madchen singen

Die ganze welt ist wie verhexcht
Veronica der spargel vechst
My mother should be proud, I mean

mothers are proud when their daughters are to be married
and can make it the whole way home
without getting out of the car to throw up on the highway.

Every space has a unique set of rules, everywhere
you learn to think
everywhere seems to think it is a school

and in class you were taught Lucy,
your professor was on the team that discovered her,
he said they were listening to the Beatles and “Lucy

in the Sky with Diamonds” is the skeleton’s namesake now because
they took LSD, I mean, they took
the name from that song

attached it to her bones, and straight back
into poetry she went
almost immediately, poets took Lucy

because of the metaphorical possibilities.
(Poets love science. Scientists
listen to music in laboratories and sing.)

Lucy was in the sky with diamonds
and here I am, holding the oldest bones on Earth, he thought.
Were the diamonds shooting

or falling?
And how do I attach them to bones
mine, yours—isn’t that what it means to be married,

aren’t we hoping to discover/to cultivate/to feel
the oldest love on Earth?
When I die will you keep making music

in layers over me
that will hold?
Or will everything take?

Every question has at least two opposite answers
and are both are always true. Plant nails in the ground
to turn your baby’s eyes blue.

I’m drunk too, and you
swerved into my lane. Me.
Lucky, lucky me.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Upmarket Women's Fiction

You are the top of the food chain. Remember that
when the treacherous universe threatens. Go to the gym
instead of having sex. When all you want
is to move against someone else,
grab a hold of the elliptical and don't let go.
Oh baby, baby. I love you, baby.
The gym is a breeding ground
for nasty fungal infections. Not so far
from fucking in a bathroom, in a bar.

Money doesn't move
the moon the way the moon
moves my body.

Let’s paddle this canoe far away from language,
invent an island of gestures, where all we do is fuck.
Closed, closed and away from everything,
the bar bathroom. Inside the stall it’s just us, baby.
So they can see our feet, so what?

Open the door. Outside there are all the Sunday animals,
blondes, brunettes, raven-haired octogenarians
grunting and pushing through the sub-par galleries
of New Jersey and grandchildren.
This is the young gallery class:
teach them how to pick locks.

Grandchildren ask for your credit card number,
for sudden, violent pumpkin spice lattes.
So we’ll teach them noble truths:
Everyone else in the world is jealous of you.
They all want to be Americans. They all want to be you.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Marry Me, Reality

Fundamental components of reality
may be consequences of geometry,
nonsensical infinities and deep paradoxes.
Forget the requirement that probabilities sum to one.

Maybe the consequences of geometry,
space and time, are not fundamental aspects of nature.
Forget the requirement that probabilities sum to one:
space and time merely arise as consequences of the jewel’s geometry.

Space and time are not fundamental aspects of nature.
Three dimensions of space change over time.
Space and time merely arise as consequences of the jewel’s geometry.
The jewel fits to a ring, the ring fits my fourth finger perfectly.

These are fundamental components of marriage:
nonsensical infinities and deep paradoxes.

This poem is an erasure poem in the pantoum form. It is made up almost entirely of lines and phrases found in this article:

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

The Hawks

circling so low, you were sure they had a message from God.
When you came upon her, unexpectedly chewed in half,
the look of surprise on her face was momentarily the same
as the look of surprise on yours.
Schoolchildren walking home together, rounding the corner
just slightly after you did, one of them, pointing at her, said, “Prey.”
Maybe that was the message. Or maybe there was no message.
Maybe the hawks came close because they were checking you out:
Prey? Prey. So you pray. You look up at the sky. The hawks are the answer.
Look down. The answer is sunflowers, or the row of tomatillos
little green paper lanterns lit from the inside by a certain plant-light.
The answer is salsa and corn chips and beer and pie.
Put your arms around me.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Bryant Park

In one half of an arch of trees, a small man is talking love
to a large woman in a green dress with heavy green earrings,

behind them is the Empire State Building, some other tall
buildings that I can’t name but surely are iconic to someone,

a smoker in a plaid shirt with a girl and a suitcase
between them, his foot is tapping hers, they smoke the same brand:

they are leaving for the same place, he is gesturing to the trees
and saying something to her about nature, or maybe he’s trying to make a

point about the buildings. I am building
you something, I just don’t know what it is yet, I see you

even though you’re not here.

Monday, September 9, 2013


Grapefruit calf muscles, stone sandals, tassels
like bell-pulls, fronting his robe and behind him
not feathers, but wings.

He's carrying a small basket from the Assyrian empire
in one hand and with the other he's pulled out a lemon
to feed the monkey, about ninth century BCE—
how long have monkeys been friends with the gods?
Any why is death the common addiction?

His beard is one long rectangle
of two variables: perfect curlicues and straight lines.
His arm is muscled and decorated, his wrists
permanent flowers, his ears have long penis-shaped earrings,
his eyes must have been outlined in charcoal, shaped like falcon eyes,
and the sculptor was afraid to attempt the sacred eyeballs,
without which the statue cannot see. Maybe his hat can see.

Or perhaps that is why he is lifting the lemon to the monkey
in the corner? May the monkey guide him
to the gods. This is about death,
something King Ashurnasirpal II and I share,

though I have no basket, no eternal jewelry.
When it comes time to feed the monkey
will I have fruit in my hand
or will I have to offer my hand as fruit?