Poetry by Jen Rouse: Because the Word Dissolve, Queen of Hearts, and Mythbusters

Because the Word Dissolve

I have spent the hours

smiling and nodding at faces

that no longer make sense—words spin

away from their mouths in slow

sickening spirals,

and I watch like a curious child

as they funnel

into ribbons before me.

And I am certain the sound of voices

dissolves like poprocks

coming to a sumptuous sour end.


What is this taste in my mouth?

Why does the light sear through

my teeth?  Who told you to find me here?

I can’t compete

with your purposefulness.                    I have a brain

that leaps tall buildings in a single

bound on just an off day.  And on the way

back down, I hold onto ledges,

I look in your windows, I wonder

what compels you, and why

there is no more candy.



Queen of Hearts

What if she could

pull the shards of her heart

from her throat–

like a sword swallower

in reverse?  Liquid light

pouring through

the pulse in her neck.

Like a magician

tugging a scarf from a hat?

Imagine that kind of

dissection.  The body

so delicately undone.


No need to worry about

shredding vocal chords.

She stopped speaking

so many years ago.  Except

for the spectacle,

the determined end in her

eyes, the moments

when she pretends

to bring you close to her,

when she almost makes you believe

you matter a little more

than the others.


What if she could put

each piece, glistening,

on the stage before you,

a thudding mass, reciting

promises unkept and

absent kisses—

would you reach to

staunch the wound?  Or sit

as her pulse plummets

to applause?




You should never try to tackle your childhood
on an empty stomach, or swim until it’s been half an hour
after therapy. If you mix baking soda and bile,
the volcano will explode pieces of your past from your throat
and an ex-lover or two from your toes. The beauty of the sun catching
in the magnifying glass is that you don’t even
need a caterpillar to burn on the cement, your own fingers
will do. Then hallucinate the egg frying on the hood
of your old high school friend’s Chevette. Fried was always a word
that was part of that equation.


Sometimes confession
feels like sticking your tongue to the frozen flagpole.
It seems like everyone is watching at the wrong moment. But if you do the Hail
Marys to the tune of Proud Mary, short-skirted women
in fishnets will sing you to sleep. Full of grace. A glass of red wine
each day is good for the soul. Which will be saved if the wine
is organic and you stop eating your heart out. You often confuse
transubstantiation and transference. The body, the blood.
Reduce, reuse, recycle. Zombies love this mantra.
And if you choose to spin the bottle:
walk softly, carry a fucking chainsaw. Peace be with you.


Acid and Tender by Jen Rouse

Jen Rouse’s poems have appeared in Poetry, Poet Lore, Pretty Owl, The Tishman Review, The Inflectionist Review, Midwestern Gothic, Sinister Wisdom, and elsewhere. She has work forthcoming in Up the Staircase‘s 10th anniversary issue, the CDC Poetry Project, and Sliver of Stone. She’s the 2017 winner of Gulf Stream’s summer poetry contest. Rouse’s chapbook, Acid and Tender, was published in 2016 by Headmistress Press. Find her at jen-rouse.com and on Twitter @jrouse.


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