poems by Rena J. Mosteirin

Blog Archive

Friday, January 30, 2015

More Cowbell

In one sock was a coin, in the other a spider
the game was to reach your hand in. Pick one. Pull it out.
My tooth came out that first trip to Switzerland

into the hard dark inside a chocolate croissant. Déjà vu
and my tooth were the two things I told:
in one sock was a coin, in the other a spider.

Sweet ache in the wild twilight when I saw the Alps
like seeing my own face in the mirror for the first time.
My tooth came out that first trip to Switzerland

while I was yodeling, while I was a cow with a bell around my neck.
The other children let me trot in their herd. I taught them the game:
in one sock was a coin, in the other a spider.

Coins are small talk, even in German. Fear is spiders, is pain,
is myself reflected in an unfamiliar place. I have been here before.
My tooth fell out like some part of my body wanted to stay in Switzerland

where the water is orange soda, cows in both socks
and the Alps have faces—yes, and they smile—
white with falling-out teeth.

Sunday, January 25, 2015


Kitchen cabinets full of snow,
at home the cold won’t break.
So you leave, down the street in semi-straight lines
bent against the wind, bent against other the people passing.
Is that cold or sadness or a spark?
Yes, something about to go off—
somewhere between snap and catch.
This little flower blooms with wrongheaded love:
a mignonette foolish for snow, for the pale opal-fire of January
icing over the wetlands
as grey clouds smoke-over a white sky,
slipping past the jagged tops of trees who never
drop their needles, while other trees lose all.

Who’s to say why the beavers took down this stand,
leaving an empty space, a stain
and why the tall grasses and cattails go yellow from brown
but stay erect, when tougher weeds than they have curved down
and forgotten what they stood for, and how
to count the pleasures of snow;
tracks, then melt, then more, then waiting.
Old farm tools in the snow look like girls curling forward,
resting their foreheads on their knees. Frozen and numb.
But not beyond the possibility of uncurling.
The sound of running water after months of stand-still deep freeze
is like the sound of your key in the door, my heart
will melt down mountains, and what is white now
will be green when you come home.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Without the Shipwreck

Viking gold lingers like it was made to sit with salt,
made for the bottom of the ocean. Until we find each other
underwater, bumping round air-helmet heads.
I bite my tongue, hard.
You just want the treasure, without the shipwreck.

When I bite my tongue I pour salt into a mug and it sinks:
the top is water and the bottom is lines in the ocean.
Once I sat in a salt room for an hour. Everything was coated
in a singular salt from an astonishing cave, brought to Manhattan
by mad beauty geniuses, salt scientists, sure they had stumbled on
the treasure everyone else swished and spat.
Salt carpet and salt walls, watching relaxing salinated images
on a plasma screen and at the end of the hour they gave me a bottle
of water. I drank it too quickly and then
I took the biggest shit of my life. It was brown but also green,
like the chia seeds I had been eating had come to life
in my intestines. Remember Chia Pets?

The last thing I remember her saying
was that her sixteen year old niece was a pathological liar.
That seemed like ok first date talk, right?
But then there was a bunch of stuff I missed.
And when I tuned back in, it was because she was getting
a bit loud, because she was very offended,
because he suggested she go to Al Anon.
Then she stood up and was like,
"I don't need you to help me."
And that was the end of their first date,
this couple that had only previously met online
who I was sitting next to at the café
at the big New York Public Library on Fifth Ave
where I was browsing The Atlas of Shipwrecks & Treasure
missing you so much I made maps with sugar
how the East Coast meets the ocean—
the distance between us is many sugar packets—
and I thought everyone else around me
was in love, though they didn’t know it.