poems by Rena J. Mosteirin

Blog Archive

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

The Perfume Whale

Perfume Whales want you to sleep forever
 and while you sleep, they make perfume from your dreams.
The hedgehog and the selkie are in love in my pocket. I dance
across the bridge made of words, built

in an effort to talk around that grief, that street paved with steps.
Rena is funny. She says funny things. She makes people laugh.
She will always be laughing.
Inside the ocean is silence.

When the days freeze, the branches tap on the kitchen window.
It’s warm inside, but the trees don’t have enough money to come in.
Each new day is a boat, where we
share the protection of summery weather.

The Perfume Whale nibbles the rough paint
chipping off the sides of our days,
little white flakes at sea.
The selkies cut through Spanish waters, sleek.

I carry a bouquet of smoked salmon
cold in the throat when it goes down. Singing sea shanties
all the way to the bottom, and listening at the doors of shells.
Specificity stitched into the skin

and we are bunched up below. Quick!
Get in my pocket. My pockets are boats.
The captain said we must have him. We must have Hedgehog there,
I mean Quohog, in one of our boats.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Tell Me

Ailier means thank you and rain season.
Rivan means that which sustains you,

food/water, wet love/heat, heat/shelter
also, this word means winter.

Yment means the place you sleep when your house burns down,
this is the word for springtime as well.

Thlyank is the place you go when the love is dry
and the food is too wet to eat, also, summertime.

There is no word for autumn, no autumn, in fact,
but ten new words that each mean the flight has been delayed.

Ailier means
thank you for coming.

Rivan means
we hope you enjoy our country.

Yment means
give money so that we may build new buildings.

Thlyank means
your name here.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Meltwater Coffee

He went to the tree with an egg and a match
and a paper cup when he couldn’t sleep.
He made a fire and melted snow in the cup and boiled the egg.

Autumn resolves to frost and then is quickly spent.
Soon my names will turn brown and fall off,
if I catch them in the kettle with some snow it will make a sort of coffee.

When you eat the bear, you will know the woods, he said.
He spent the night beneath the tree of wakefulness,
feeling awe for the wolves and feeding the deer.

My own deep sleep pressed down on the tall grasses
of his matted hair, making bright paths.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Margaret Fuller Goes Down

A dress that can stand by itself, a dress made out of tree bark
based on the life of source code. Tree as source
as the “real America” appears in my water glass, on my phone
as a prisoner of war. That’s why I have a strategic friendship

with that dress. I teach looms to weave tree bark
from 1’s and 0’s. What shall we erect in city centers
to memorialize the languages written quickly in the name
of human-computer friendship? We must use tact

as friends of machines. We must write the life
of that dress, write secrets at the center of the flower.
What is underneath the dress? Submission. Fidelity.
The examination reflects in the screen of my phone. I hesitate

before responding. There are silver horns hanging in lines
off the bark dress. What am I being prepared for? The curve
of the handle tells you what the pitcher was made to hold.
The dress is the question of friendship. The boots

beneath the dress are also made of bark, for the invisible girl: America
and her secret friends. They take things from the forest. Fawns
run from their scent. Their qualifications are impressive. They teach
the machines blooming love. Abrupt love. Teach suggestive songs

as legacies of immune systems are carried off in fleshy chunks: a sky burial
to feed a flock before or outside the world. The full force of collapse
cannot convince this dress to fold. My vulnerable feet suggest a subtle violence.
Who can teach the deer to dance and what is at stake?

The earth corresponds with animals and vegetables through minerals,
making it harder to break with our teeth.
Yes, I can eat that dress. Swallow that silver too.

Public documents reveal the code in the dress.
Don’t tell me, don’t tell me, it’s the story of a shipwreck:
it’s the salted skin of all the bodies that went down, holding their form.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Smoke From My Hair

A song like the ghost of a mill girl, a song heaving and sick
and pregnant, a song like my grandfather worked

many lifetimes simultaneously so I would never have to hear.
A song that took away everything. That night

they came down from the hills to Havana,
and some sexy black woman was singing this song

into the boozy faces of tourists
and because of the song they could taste Havana

on her, they could smoke her hair
and call her home for the night, tell everyone

that they could see themselves living on her forever.

A song to change your life to,

to change the tone-tune-tenor of your night,
Cuba has put her song in your American ears

and as it grows up in my garden I realize
it’s always playing, underneath all the other musics: this song

is my mantra, my calm lake, my Cuba.
At Starbucks they play Guantanamera whenever they want,

but that is not the song, that is not the brush with life
that enables authenticity—if for one night only—this is the song we die to.

Cubans can come back from the dead when this song is playing,
and dance with their lovers again, groping through gardens at night,

making my cows turn into pregnant teenagers—it’s the song—
MTV knocked them up, all of them stupid and sexy

mooing the fields, all big dark eyes and so shy
as they tell you it’s ok if you want to touch their swollen bellies.

Shake it up baby. The song plays to the trees
and the cows dance and we realize we’re all stuck in the mud,

some more than others. I’ve got short legs
and I’m udders-deep, but under the mud the song has spilled roots,

roots like apple trees, thick and tall into the dense Earth,
and each apple of my days has a single white worm

in her dark heart of brown seeds, eating, always eating…
Start at the center, and I too am rooted in the basket of the Earth,

for it is the only way I can keep mooing,
settle in and let go—so shake it up baby now—the cows get down,

and I am keeping my head above ground:
hair on fire.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Too Close

Moby-Dick could cut off his own tail
and a new whale would grow from it.

He tasted like tuna, but bigger, Queequeg you swore it,
but Queequeg, you didn’t kill The Whale.

Harpoons in The Whale froze. Get too close
and he’ll freeze your fingers off.

Get too close and you’re already dead.
Ahab died several times this way.

Moby-Dick smelled like a summer meadow. A welcome whiff of land
—New England/ cow shit/ air pollution from factories,

rain touching down on soil, not salty sea—
a summer smell in this cold passage,

don’t forgive the poles of the world
for freezing us out, my darling.

I have pledged both of us to this voyage
but only you will die.

Hunters know how to die when the time comes.
My years have been squandered, watching.

How can I convince you not to go?
Listen, the Pequod is never going to make it back.

The ship is in pieces. I’ve been picked up by another.
Only the ocean knows the truth, and she’s not talking.

The Whale was too big, too white. He was a bright continent, a glacier.
They teased Moby-Dick, you know, they bullied him in school.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

On the Occasion of Going To A Strip Club

Professor Pussy took them to the back room
for a little lesson, first physics,
then she taught them computer programming
and they kept their clothes on. They no longer
needed names like Stallion and Russian Bear, didn’t wear thongs
under briefs, under army-fatigue pants
and they didn’t dance
out into the audience of women who wanted
to pluck something from them
and tuck it in between their breasts, next to the dull dollar bills
the men were instructed to lick and suck
off the places the screaming women had stuck them. Veterans, some,
arms up if you want him to pick you and bounce
you on his hips. Spread your legs and he’ll learn Mandarin
so he can work the Chinese markets, so he can bull and bear
instead of bucking. Young veterans back
from the war we don’t talk about. Put your hands here, honey.
Que Sera Sera, what ever will be will be, sings an unlikely mother
in the back of the club, when her computer starts lap dancing:
every piece precious. Que sera sera when my face fills
with him and when I hum him out, my head full of nettles
and seawater. “Whatever will be will be,” he says
settling into my lap. And it means nothing, but it’s touching
and he’s touching me like English syntax superimposed
on another language, and it ultimately makes no sense
in Spanish, Italian or French.
Thank you. I’m sorry.
I’m sorry. No more, please.
He sleeps no more than three hours a night. He will make a whinny,
a horse-sound for you. He will ride you like a sailboat in a storm.
Hustle me harder, because that’s love, that’s what love looks like.
This weekend didn’t happen—
computers don’t unplug themselves and spit out their teeth
onto the countertop—there’s no one here who wants to kill him
but when he’s anxious, his mind goes back
to the place where he first went to war
and the keys smash out onto the table, the chords unplug
themselves, they wind and weave, they strangle and gyrate,
they light up and spell out the magic words: TAKE IT OFF.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014


See how dead are clumped here
but just past the far fence they are laid out in rows?

None of these accommodations are spacious
but they keep the dead still.

In Queens my people live among graveyards.
Hold your breath while we pass.

Some of these still have lanes for hearses to drive through,
and some have covered over the lanes with additional graves.

The cheese melts into the afternoon.
You can’t tell a swim from a suicide jump

just by looking at the bridge. It has to do with surfacing,
with whether or not you are holding your breath.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Third Avenue

The bus is stuck in traffic like a butt plug up Third Avenue.
“She’s obsessed with her apartment,” the woman behind me complains.
I read off the names of shops as we creep by:
Good for Life

Organic Avenue
Banana Republic
Mister Wright
Gold’n Gifts

I am leaving the city for the place that taught me
what a dead moose smells like in the night,
the place where some spider webs are so thick
I’ve seen birds get caught in them.

Passing the building where my father used to live
catches me. I wasn’t expecting the shock of it. Wasn’t prepared.
I am leaving New York City
facing backwards on the bus so I can say goodbye.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014


It’s James Dean I see
in my mind today
when I think of you.
I don’t know why.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

With Each Year We Are More Closely Stitched Together

(Which binds tighter, the stich you see or the stich you don’t see?
The love goes up and down.)

I have been five years abided by,
five years yours.

Ten years since you saw me naked,
coming up out of the Long River Flanked by Pines.

I was trespassing on reality.
I was a mirage.

I saw you first with eyes clouded by hallucinations,
I spoke to the ducks then, and they had no idea.

All thirty of my years are yours, as everything you have
you offer with both hands, and I pull you in, close.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Google Me

You write a different poem
when you are not sitting at the bar.

You know by the way he looks at you.
The police walk by checking their phones.

I am looking at their bodies.
The waitress forgot my order.

Someone walks by who looks like my first best friend.
Sometimes the people who pass stare back

but they don’t see me. They see my mother
or my credit card or their first best friend.

When I perform, people come just to stare into my eyes.
“I would never Google you,” my mother said.

“I would never do such a thing,”
said my credit card.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Farmer's Market

Last night in Jackson Heights, Ecuador
was in season and I sat by the door
and let the wind blow Spanish
at me and I felt like Rilke
was touching my hair and I imagined
an Ecuadorian Jesus winning the World Cup.

This morning on Park Avenue
I have the Santa Barbara feeling.
“He had a stigma on his face,” says the man
at the table next to mine. I have been that man.
I mean, I have been to the farmer’s market
for a shot of wheatgrass and now I need black coffee
to quiet that farmer’s-market feeling.

Now I am hungry for stigma
and soccer and no matter
who wins the game tonight, Queens will light up
and I’ll stand on the balcony and cheer
and when the loud car draws up under me
screaming for me to flip up my shirt and show
my breasts to the kings of the country of soccer

I’ll throw handfuls of dried lavender instead.
I got some at the farmer’s market on Union Square this morning:
 a sachet for my purse so no one can smell
how far I am from my home.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Black Bear

The bear was a shadow.
The bear was so dark because he had absorbed his own shadow.
There was no shadow.
The shadow bear ran.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Wild White Dog

Dreamt my mother was in Cairo on Mother's Day
I could get there/ I couldn't get there/ I could get there
if once I got there I would consent to live there,
but I was worried about the moon
and I could hear the women on the bridge talking
but the running water was white
noise that ran over their voices and into my ears,
preventing me from having thoughts about Cairo and my mother,
preventing me from hearing the footsteps of the dog
as he crept up and there was the main part of the river
and a small stream flowing into it and then a pool off to the side
that smelt like the ocean, that is to say, decay,
as I sat between the stream and the pool
wiping black bugs off my white sleeves
looking blank as the watermusic emptied me
and the dog breathed in my ear but I heard it as wind:
he was dripping white foam watermusic
and had the blank of sickness in his eyes
I told myself I was going to try and meditate,
that's when I woke up,
feeling like the wild dog didn't attack me because
I hadn't done anything wrong.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Puzzle the Sky

Where we together have gone
            the clouds open and close around us,
the clouds are not afraid to be in the air.

If the farms below zippered open at the seams
            I would read that as my invitation to the heart of the world,
where we together have gone.

 We are flying on metal parts in a frame:
            we frame and puzzle the sky.
The clouds are not afraid to be in the air.

Point your nose at that:
            the metal spread cuts up into the white storm
where we together have gone.

Point your nose at that:
            the clouds don’t know what flying costs and
the clouds are not afraid to be in the air.

When we land can I be you and can you be God?
            Will I be someone else on the other side of the clouds?
Where we together have gone
beyond the illusion that we were ever apart.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Good Friday

My airplane hunkers down the runway,
the eyes of my plane are pieces
big and dark on the smooth white face. My tail the flag
of an airborne country.

Grave-markers should look like clouds,
like uncertain soul-shapes and hologramed faces of cotton,
or maybe we shouldn’t mark death at all,
that inevitable transition to the greater galaxy.

Hell is being away from you. Hell is being apart.
Death can only be a release from that—back into the everything:
gone is the world that suffers from specificity,
from the God-fearing worry:

that either God didn’t have the power to prevent the death
of the only son, or God had the power but didn’t want to use it.
God wanted to watch a God-made-flesh die. God doesn’t love us.
Just above the clouds you can see the shadows

that the clouds leave on the ground
effortless like a writer moving her hand over paper
and leaving words on the page.
If I could read the shadows the clouds cast

if the shapes were letters
I would think heaven was flirting with me.
The earth is flung open for me.
The door of my heart is open. Come in, kind eyes.

The lit street unzips city leagues for me.
The lack of turbulence would surely disappoint you
but when my plane starts to shake you put your book down.
The poet across the aisle drinks diet coke

and eats raw almonds and writes in a formidable notebook
with purple ink. Sometimes when I look in the mirror I see my mother.
I must learn to look at myself with kind eyes.
I always thought my mother was beautiful.

Ice cubes melt faster into the tonic in the turbulence
my handwriting becomes like a shaky old man.
My grandfather’s hand was all precise confessions.
Why would you watch a movie about an airplane going down

while you are flying on my airplane?
The psychic weight of it is bringing us down.
Today is Good Friday, not yet Easter, I hope everyone remembered
to wash their hands.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Myth of Distance

Higher and through the airy part of the world, looking down
I know I will never return to that city.

Now we are above spotty little clouds
and the ground is grey through the mist of distance.

Nuggets of city shine below as a stranger sleeps beside me,
sitting up in her yellow coat like a daffodil leaning
towards an uncertain moon.

The moon is the future of every day, she murmurs in her sleep,
as the captain announces: we have been cleared for landing.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

We Earthquake With It

Tonight the silence of owls spreads over us
like the curse of a memory too allegorical.
Wake me when the heron comes home and I am a different animal.

Lies become fables for the future,
lifting off from the tangible weather, from the time of day,
tonight the silence of owls spreads over us.

The fat owls are curious. The fat owls want to play.
The skinny owls want to eat you. It’s not their fault.
Wake me when the heron comes home and I am a different animal.

A great horned owl has been here.
Her leaving is so heavy we earthquake with it.
Tonight the silence of owls spreads over us

and we pretend my footprints are stars that fell inside-out.
I would like to draw on your feathers with crayons. Wake me when you’re ready,
wake me when the heron comes home and I am a different animal.

God burns away in the sunlight.
It hasn’t been sunny in weeks so everybody’s been seeing God.
Tonight the silence of owls spreads over us,
wake me when the heron comes home and I am a different animal.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

I woke up on fire

I bought a bumblebee from a witch,
Eat him mid-winter, she said. But I’ve kept him to look at
and he turned into springtime.

Bees hunker, bees wiggle soft-stinger bottoms from side to side
to dance, to engrave the tiniest love-notes on flower petals.
I bought a bumblebee from a witch:

he looked so little, wet wings pressed down to the velvet.
I thought there were no bees left in the world
and he turned into springtime.

His black stripes are crushed-up vanilla beans.
How will we describe the taste of honey when there are no more bees?
I bought a bumblebee from a witch

and I woke up buried in wildflower petals.
I woke up on fire, and he turned on the rains, I mean he rained
and he turned into springtime.

The trees used to be filled with soft golden bees.
People used netted hats and the word swarm.
I bought a bumblebee from a witch
and he turned into springtime.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Brooklyn Bluebird

The night before I died I heard a bear cry behind the house and then a child-cry response. The mother was there she just couldn't see her cub. But they could hear and smell each other. It was the middle of the night before I died and I crept to the window and prayed to the God of Cities to let there always be bears, to let there always be crying bears that sound like children. Always mother bears crying for those cubs missing but articulating the loss back to her. Always bears.

To the God of Cities I prayed don’t come here,
don’t come here/ don’t come here/don’t come here. Oh,
I didn't realize your spring mornings
were full of birdsong too. Behind the swirling metal supports

of the makeshift frame there once lived a wooden bird
smelling of breakfast. In her café there are branches glued
to the interior walls: it’s a way to tell time by the moon.
Now the clock the bird came from doesn’t matter.
They don’t make little forest-themed robots
to tell time anymore, but now there's this nothing
and I'm doing jumping jacks in the corner and calling it dancing,
and there's no birdsong to tell me how long I've been doing this bullshit.

Sounds at night let you know how lost you are. The Brooklyn bluebirds begin to bounce around the backyard because spring is in the city before spring is in Vermont. I forgot that birds make song here too; that there are real birds here. I forgot people make noises in the night that you can't put a name to. I forgot the city makes it's own. The father makes the son in his own image: the son wears leather jackets and says the word "nigger" and sleeps with women who are too young for him. The night before I died you told me to close the window.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Picture of Teeth

“Pray with your eyes open or you’ll miss the miracles,” she says.
I’m checking email in church
where the bible plays out on the walls in color all around me.
The weather in here is old incense, yellow teeth, booze on the breath,
all the good air has already been burned.

The weather outside is wet and dirty—air shot through with water
and the newspapers puff up on the sidewalks
and either way, I’ll eat it, but it will make me sick.

Tame animals do that all the time: eat the wrong food and get sick
and then eat the sickness. Take him back to bed
like there’s no money left
in the world.

“Animals don’t wear clothes,” she says.
“That’s why they’re so happy all the time.”
When he leaves her, she’ll start to take in strays.

She saves her best clothes for occasions that never
come. Or they come but she is not invited. She is
old clothes, is
too big for herself, is
washed out, worn. This makes her husband angry. There's no money left
but that's no reason for her to look like there's no money left.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Ursa Minor

Your feet leave bear tracks in the snow,
when we walk the night flash-lit so the cars can’t miss us.
When the sun shines a greenish light comes through

the iceberg. I have a glass bluebird, wings painted with glitter.
Pick up your face, the glassbird says. The stars watch.
Your feet leave bear tracks in the snow.

I press my back into the trees and scratch, up and down
shedding blue painted-on sparkles called happiness,
and when the sun shines a greenish light comes through

the iceberg, tells me when to expect the icicles to fall.
Icicles don’t mean anything. My feet leave bootprints with no smell,
your feet leave bear tracks in the snow.

We dance a sundance; we dance the whole animal.
The way you’ve frozen, I can see each grain of you.
When the sun shines a greenish light comes through

and the frozen trees sound like they are cracking,
as the wind blows between branches fragmented falsetto,
your feet leave bear tracks in the snow.

My lungs fill with a cold light, listening to the wild turkeys
heavy in the trees and the trucks heavier on the highway in the freeze,
when the sun shines a greenish light comes through,

when the stars shine the iceberg turns blue.
My feet leave dance tracks on the sky.
Your feet leave bear tracks in the snow.
When the sun shines a greenish light comes through.