poems by Rena J. Mosteirin

Blog Archive

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.