O, I am the show,

bathed in golden light.  My followers

at my feet, clawing at the dazzle--

just wanting to be inside

me for a moment,

my scent carved into memory

like cinnamon and shadow.  Showing you

how my mouth caresses

greatness, as desire glistens in my teeth

like an old-friend habit     

I am certain I keep quitting.

To lessen the craving--for composure is so overrated

and the voices don’t really love me

anymore.   Their fingers rip at my skull

so wide and deep, the melting

into the gorgeous web

of hemisphere battle. 



And every song is on repeat because it is the only order I can tolerate.  I hit the button so hard

I feel like my fingers will crush through the dash.  Sunglasses launch from my hand as though to punctuate the giant fuck you I’m screaming through the phone, but I’m not really saying fuck you,

no, I am saying I want I need these goddamn corn stalks to stop mocking me with their blinding

radiance, and I’m saying I need to sleep

and for your voice

just your voice

to sing me somewhere else

because we simply

aren’t safe

here anymore.



The mistake in thinking is that there must be some trigger,

something removable or avoidable, a thing that must be healed. 

Thorn in paw.  If there is a plan…      The mistake in thinking is that there

is a need to  cling to a past way of being, for attention,

for the sake of ritual, for not knowing what else to do.

None of this is true.

I have no desire to be watched or listened to, sought after

or saved.  It is not quiet here, clatter of tiles

and words that spell themselves.  I am only

as much as you will make of me.  Or as little. 

 Jen Rouse is the Director of the Center for Teaching and Learning at Cornell College. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Poetry, Poet Lore, Midwestern Gothic, Wicked Alice, Parentheses, Yes Poetry, Crab Fat Magazine, Up the Staircase, Southern Florida Poetry Journal, and elsewhere. She was named a finalist for the Mississippi Review 2018 Prize Issue and was the winner of the 2017 Gulf Stream Summer Contest Issue. Rouse’s chapbook, Acid and Tender, was a finalist for the Charlotte Mew Prize and published in 2016 by Headmistress Press. Riding with Anne Sexton, Rouse’s second book, is forthcoming from Bone & Ink Press in collaboration with dancing girl press. Her plays have been produced by SPT Theatre Company and Theatre Cedar Rapids. Find her at jen-rouse.com and on Twitter @jrouse.