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
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
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
would you reach to
staunch the wound? Or sit
as her pulse plummets
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.
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.
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.