poems by Rena J. Mosteirin

Blog Archive

Thursday, February 25, 2016

The Hour of That Choice is the Crisis of Your History

the favorite of Heaven and earth, the excellency of his country, the happiest of men
in painting, in sculpture, in poetry, in fiction, in eloquence
any antiquity, any usage, any livery productive of ease or profit
the resources, the subject, and the discipline of the scholar

its fragrant midsummer breath, its sparkling January heaven
Greece, Rome, England, France, St. Helena
churches, literatures, and empires
to history, to the pyramids, and the authors

neither Greece nor Rome, nor the three Unities of Aristotle, nor the three Kings of Cologne, nor the College of the Sorbonne, nor the Edinburgh Review
the Plutarchs, the Cudworths, the Tennemanns
of Parmenides, Heraclitus, and Xenophanes
Milton, Shakspeare, and Plato

in spite of slumber and guilt, in spite of the army, the bar-room, and the jail
observe them, approach them, domesticate them, brood on them
the crowded orders, the stern decisions, the foreign despatches, the Castilian etiquette

in the workmen, the boys, the maidens, you meet
in the hopes of the morning, the ennui of noon, and sauntering of the afternoon
in the disquieting comparisons; in the regrets at want of vigor; in the great idea, and the puny execution

behold Chatham's, Hampden's, Bayard's, Alfred's, Scipio's, Pericles's day
its sweetness, its greatness, its pain
its evanescent beauties, its wonderful details, its spiritual causes, its astounding whole
paint a Transfiguration, or build a steamboat, or be a grand-marshal

poetry, wit, hope, virtue, learning, anecdote
free, impassioned, picturesque speech
with thoughts, with pictures, with rhythmical balance of sentences
flowers, birds, mountains, sun, and moon

The screaming of the wild geese flying by night; the thin note of the companionable titmouse, in the winter day; the fall of swarms of flies, in autumn, from combats high in the air, pattering down on the leaves like rain; the angry hiss of the wood-birds; the pine throwing out its pollen for the benefit of the next century; the turpentine exuding from the tree

Homeric, or Shakspearian, or Miltonic, or Chaucerian pictures
the sun and the moon, the snow and the rain
the name of the Pelasgi, of Athens, of the Etrurian, of the Roman people
and politics, and philosophy, and letters, and art
to sift and wash and strain
such a flyaway, such a slyboots, so untransportable and unbarrelable
Translate, collate, distil
Greece, Rome, Stoicism, Eclecticism
Plato, Bacon, Kant, and the Eclectic Cousin
solitary, laborious, modest, and charitable

he does not see; he does not hear; he does not think
cherish your soul; expel companions; set your habits to a life of solitude
private, sincere, divine
the garden, the cottage, the forest, and the rock
Pindar, Raphael, Angelo, Dryden, De Stael
with abstractions, with verities, with ideas

balls, concerts, rides, theatres
and retire, and hide; lock the door; shut the shutters; then welcome falls the imprisoning rain
of muse and prophet, of art and creation
do chores, and suffer, and weep, and drudge
silence, seclusion, austerity
the fool of society, the fool of notoriety, a topic for newspapers, a piece of the street

the russet coat, the privacy, and the true and warm heart of the citizen
the subtlest, strongest, and longest-lived
incomplete, pedantic, useless, ghostly creatures
of tenderness, of terror, of will, and of fate
needs, appetites, talents, affections, accomplishments

Out of love and hatred, out of earnings, and borrowings, and lendings, and losses; out of sickness and pain; out of wooing and worshipping; out of travelling, and voting, and watching, and caring; out of disgrace and contempt

exactly, bravely, and cheerfully
demolished cavalry, infantry, king, and kaisar
experience, methods, tools, and means
no word, no act, no record
the transaction, a letter of credit or a transfer of stocks
get land and money, place and name

What is this Truth you seek? what is this Beauty?
be bold, be firm, be true
of art, and poetry, and science
an acre, house, and barn
roof, and bed, and board
in all men's possessions, in all men's affections, in art, in nature, and in hope.

This is an erasure poem made from Ralph Waldo Emerson’s “An Oration delivered before the Literary Societies of Dartmouth College, July 24, 1838.”

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

The Night Shall Be My Germany of Mystic Philosophy and Dreams

language, sleep, madness, dreams, beasts, sex
space, the air, the river, the leaf
a house, a canal, a statue, a picture
chipping, baking, patching, and washing
Commodity; Beauty; Language; and Discipline
Beasts, fire, water, stones, and corn
his floor, his work-yard, his play-ground, his garden, and his bed
the sky, the mountain, the tree, the animal
outline, color, motion, and grouping

the acorn, the grape, the pine-cone, the wheat-ear, the egg, the wings and forms of most birds, the lion's claw, the serpent, the butterfly, sea-shells, flames, clouds, buds, leaves, and the forms of many trees, as the palm

The shows of day, the dewy morning, the rainbow, mountains, orchards in blossom, stars, moonlight, shadows in still water

Homer, Pindar, Socrates, Phocion
the persons, the opinions, and the day
the poet, the painter, the sculptor, the musician, the architect
Justice, Truth, Love, Freedom

a plant, the organs, or work, or noise of an insect
of riches, of pleasure, of power, and of praise
mountains, and waves, and skies,
day and night, river and storm, beast and bird, acid and alkali,

"garment," "scoriae," "mirror,"
space, time, society, labor, climate, food, locomotion, the animals,
its solidity or resistance, its inertia, its extension, its figure, its divisibility
adds, divides, combines, measures, and finds nutriment
annoyances, inconveniences, dilemmas

the widow, the orphan, and the sons of genius
Agriculture, Astronomy, Zoology
Light, Heat, Electricity, Magnetism, Physiology, Geology
form, color, and motion
in values and wants, in corn and meat

the chaff and the wheat, weeds and plants, blight, rain, insects, sun
the sailor, the shepherd, the miner, the merchant
a leaf, a drop, a crystal, a moment of time
the snake, the stag, and the elephant
sun and moon, man and woman, house and trade
the broker, the wheelwright, the carpenter, the toll-man
— talking, running, bartering, fighting, —
the earnest mechanic, the lounger, the beggar, the boys, the dogs

air, the sun, the mountain, the camp, the city, the hero, the maiden
sonnets, the lays of birds, the scents and dyes of flowers
vanities, dreams, shadows, unrealities
of persons and things, of actions and events, of country and religion
wisdom, or love, or beauty, or power
corn and the apple, the potato and the vine
of conchology, of botany, of the arts
flowers, shells, animals, architecture
fire, wind, water, and the mariner's needle; steam, coal, chemical agriculture

the traditions of miracles in the earliest antiquity of all nations; the history of Jesus Christ; the achievements of a principle, as in religious and political revolutions, and in the abolition of the Slave-trade; the miracles of enthusiasm, as those reported of Swedenborg, Hohenlohe, and the Shakers; many obscure and yet contested facts, now arranged under the name of Animal Magnetism; prayer; eloquence; self-healing; and the wisdom of children

What is a day? What is a year? What is summer? What is woman? What is a child?What is sleep?
social life, poverty, labor, sleep, fear, fortune
a cobler's trade; a hundred acres of ploughed land; or a scholar's garret
swine, spiders, snakes, pests, madhouses, prisons, enemies
beautiful faces, warm hearts, wise discourse, and heroic acts

This is an erasure poem of Ralph Waldo Emerson’s Essay “Nature.”

Tuesday, February 23, 2016


Great Aunt Sophie watched her mother starve to death
and took the saving scraps. When someone offers her life
for yours, there is only yes.

Great Aunt Ileana spent 18 years in a Cuban prison.
When she got out she wore my same smile. So
who’s coming for me? When will I be forced to flee?

What lucky monkey miracle
allowed me to stay in this rich country so long?
Comfortable bed and a closet full of dresses,

refrigerator full of food. Computer. Phone. A family. At night in bed
I wait for the men with guns to come, pull me into the dark.
I inked a man on the wall, an outline in black marker,

pointing a gun at my bed. I was a teenager.
The walls of the room were light pink. The carpet was the same pink.
The duvet matched the border: big British

tea roses. My parents didn’t understand.
When I started to paint, all the girls were wearing gasmasks.
It’s not over, Lucky Monkey, that’s what the girls said.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Shaking the Birds Out

The trees started singing with birds
and wind and woodpeckers, sudden warmth;
where everybody knows your name, I sang,
because I forgot all the hymns I used to use
calling for winter’s end. Snow shook out
through the oblivious heavens
then everything melted/ the houses took shape.

She's doomed to be an empty nest, standoffish
and expensive she alienates everyone
that's why she has no friends:
you wanna go/ where everybody knows your name.

My name is portico, seven gables, birdbath
windows, doors, rectangles in the ice and triangles in the sky
reaching and pointing in circles
geometries strictly surface
feedback loops inheritance anxiety
infinite external hardware
melting in escrow, too real
real estate and property taxes
peel to taste and pepper the soup
beer, wine or the harder stuff:
and they're always glad you came.

Friday, February 5, 2016

F# / Gb

First I think I recognize the song/ that one-note blues/
same and same/ note over note too many times/
too long before I realize the piano is being tuned

and I don’t know the language/
Don’t know when she’s hit it/
She knows /////////////////

Everyone else has left/ but I like it/ I stay/
Each time she hits it different
she is a practitioner of sound craft

a sort of witch/ I stay to listen/ I stay
enchanted by the challenge called correctness/ Come at me
F #/ come at me F #/come at me

F # come at me/