poems by Rena J. Mosteirin

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Thursday, June 13, 2013

Old Spine Music


Wheel notched and rounded like an old spine
as if this field were full of skeletons.
How the bones would cry and the grass would flame up
and the trumpet would not be able to stop playing
that night bird music. And the air
would be breathable gold. This field is
more than just background. The old women on the edges crying
are mourners, not vagrants. You begin
to see everything as bone
that is, the former placeholders for souls.

Skeleton arms for tree branches;
leg bones for roots, forking the ground;
crow shadows stamped on everything;
and all the night-birds sound like babies
crying, “Mother, mother.”

In another corner of the scene
a white piano is reflecting some moonlight:
the answer is music. Or air, or water. Water
is the highest common denominator. Or youth.
Youth is all slender girl-legs and bony elbows,
jogging lightly down the road
and youth is also the hiss of the breaks on the bus
as it tries to stop before hitting the slender girl.

And then the terrifying moments of inaction
that stretch and throttle, that silence that sounds like a hymn.
The breaks are a chorus of gravel, ground, bones and suck.
Bus, road, girl, field of farm implements that suggest skeletons:
they join in/ you join in/ we all sing.


Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Blue Angel Hosta


She said he purchased a potted plant to bring to the graveyard
to put at his girlfriend’s grave—
it had blue-green leaves, and she didn’t think
it would be any good outside in the New England
winter, but that didn’t matter—
when he got to the graveyard
the grave wasn’t there.
(It had been moved.
That’s what he told her
and that’s what she told me.)
So he gave her the plant. She’s going to keep it inside.
English is not her first language
so I assume I’m missing some crucial part of her story.
But then she told me in no uncertain terms
that when she looks at that plant she sees God.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Commonwealth of Diamonds


Diamonds have no discernable smell.
Does a diamond taste like ice if it’s been in the freezer?
This diamond is all edges and planes
cut with a steady hand.
See here the stone is set in the bezel,
and there are three silver arms
that reach up to hold the diamond in place.
Occasionally one of these arms snags a fine scarf
or catches a single hair and pulls.

I would rather make an instrument out of diamonds
than a piece of jewelry. Though the diamond instrument
would make a colorless music only dogs could hear.
(Especially dogs from Newfoundland
or any dog that looks like a bear and is called Bear.)
Perhaps the idea of clarity is enough. We don’t need
to worship a mineral. Call me the Queen. Sing me that
God Save the Queen song. Because if you know all the words to the song
you’ll be able to turn the next thing you touch into a diamond.

Loomings of songs in the distant turbulent past:
it looked like the plane was going
to go down until we started to sing:
God save our gracious Queen!
Long live our noble Queen!
God save the Queen!

And since we lived, the people on the plane all called themselves Queens,
from that day to this. The Queen knows nothing is forever, not diamonds
or coins or smells or sounds. At best, something is a sweet
yellow moment of pure joy: a bird landing on the bench
you're sitting on and sharing the springtime with you;
a heron lazily flying over the highway; open windows
and a fresh after-the-rain smell or the smell of cut grass
or the feeling of flying and landing. Or almost hitting a deer
with the car and instead being able to stop, eyes full of gratitude-tears.

They read my story to me
from the pages of the Encyclopedia of Terrorism.
Yes, this exists. I saw it in the library
but was afraid to touch it myself
for fear it was a cleverly disguised bomb.

Monday, June 10, 2013

The Secret Displaced Symphony of Free Will



“Didactic and devoid of aesthetic attractions, the poem nevertheless appealed to the emotions—mainly that of fear—in the manner of a hellfire-and-brimstone sermon.”
-Perry D. Westbrook (from Free Will and Determinism in American Literature)


1
When I get bored at work I send myself emails, pretend I'm writing poems, smile the way you smile, when you are smiling at something sad. I pretend I'm writing really meaningful poems. There's a name for the way I feel at work: displaced. You are smiling at something sad. The second part of the symphony told the audience secrets about me. There's a name for the way I feel at work: displaced. Now you know. I run to the music of solo cellos. Now you know. The second part of the symphony told everyone secrets about me. Secrets that I didn’t know and then I knew briefly and now I don’t have the words anymore. Which means I know them in a different way. The part that doesn’t use words is also the part that doesn’t get scared. When I get bored at work I send myself emails, I smile the way you smile.

2
“Deacon Marble has an unseemly habit of breaking into laughter in church”
“Without grace, he is helpless to do the right thing.”
“God’s foreknowledge constitutes a binding determinism”
“choice, which is beyond individual control,”

“Without grace, he is helpless to do the right thing.”
“the poet becomes God’s tool for working out”
“choice, which is beyond individual control,”
“and will, which “freely” translates the choice into action.”

“the poet becomes God’s tool for working out”
“one will be the object of assaults by Satan”
“and will, which “freely” translates the choice into action.”
“What God foreknows will happen”

“Deacon Marble has an unseemly habit of breaking into laughter in church”
“God’s foreknowledge constitutes a binding determinism”

3
“I want you/ to show me the way,” Peter Frampton murmurs
quietly in the coffee shop where all the women have slender legs

and we roll our eyes at the music, but the coffee and scones are excellent.
Do they all work out? No, then they’d have muscular legs.

So they either starve themselves, or they’re all just naturally skinny.
A genetic predisposition to slender legs looks the same as an act of will.

An act of will that is a renunciation of will
is an act of sacrifice. Sacrifice in too-tight and slightly see through black

and they can pull it off too, because this is that sort of skinny and rich town.
My breasts are tenderly bulging. My legs hide under the table.

“I want you to show me the way, night and day,” Frampton continues.
And there you are, across the table from me, working on an identical laptop.

If I rest my eyes on you long enough, you look up.
I used to want to be popular, I needed everyone to like me

because the plates were shifting under my feet
and it looked like I was dancing

but I was just trying to keep up
and then when we got together

I thought love was a house on a bridge
“I want you day after day,” Frampton insists

and it doesn’t matter if the rivers rise, now
because you drive us up the mountain with a picnic

a warm blanket and a bottle of wine, to look at the stars, shining
with so much more magnificence than the chaos of you or I can shine:

with grace, with grace,
with grace, with grace…

Friday, June 7, 2013

So This Is What I Am


The birds were singing along with the cello.
The clouds parted just as we said our vows.

The birds sang messy trills.
The cello was perfect.
The cows were up to their fetlocks in mud.

You picked me.
You are my heart.

We picked May
before we knew about the lilacs.
We picked Bach’s cello suites #1 in G
with bird accompaniment.

You read me Robert Nichols, the poems
he wrote to the smaller animals.
It was raining and I cried.
The cows were up to their fetlocks in mud.

We cut lilacs for each table.
The clouds parted as we vowed.
The cello was perfect.

The birds sang along in messy trills.
You are my heart.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Paint On Leaves


“We looked out into the fields, unconsciously hoping to see bright white clothes under the old trees, the women and girls from long ago-, no less bygone now (a melancholy poet of their era would insist) than the shimmering play of the shadows through the foliage on their summer dresses…”
-Rainer Maria Rilke


1
Housepainters arrived this morning climbing ladders
up the sides of the house to the windows and looked in

on me/ still in bed/ refusing
to shut the blinds. I looked back at them

until I started to feel guilty and childish and the lady
of the house spoke to them and then their machines

roared on and I closed the blinds and went back
to the huge bed where I could hear but not understand.

Without meaning, it was all comfort and noise,
shut up inside and under blankets, warm—is this how you felt

those few weeks inside my body? Why did you leave
and where did you go? The machine

pulses like a heartbeat. Something is spraying
around my door. The outside of the house

will look new after the work of this morning,
and I will still be in this bed, a small death

inside a huge house. Perhaps they will paint me white.
Perhaps I should leave bed and put on lipstick?

Leave the house and get a manicure? Paint the outside
to fix the inside. Yes, I leave for the gothic architecture

of the forest, because of the strong paint smell
and the ruthless machine-heart. I go

outside and sit in the shade of huge trees
and as their leaves bend down around me

I start to be in the womb again.
Not the one I came from but the womb

inside my own body. If I apply thick house paint
to the leaves bowing around me, I could make a sort of church

out of this sadness. The rain
is pushing down the leaves all around me.

It doesn’t matter if I get wet. It doesn’t matter.
I could turn into a cathedral

and you would still dissolve.


2
If something still exists from your never-lived life
an echo or a wave/ something I can kiss at night,
if I need to beg the moon
to change the tides for me,
or trade a slice of my future for it, I will.
This is no sacrifice. Time is blind
and has nothing to do with love.