TWO POEMS – Jen Rouse


Image: Hannah Höch – Fashion Show (1925-35) (detail)

Jen Rouse’s poems have appeared in Poetry, The Inflectionist Review, Midwestern Gothic, the CDC Poetry Project, Parentheses, Anti-Heroin Chic, Crab Fat Magazine, Up the Staircase, 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 published in 2016 by Headmistress Press. Find her at and on Twitter @jrouse.


I pace the hall near your door
until I am certain
you have not left me.

Sunflower to the light,
this soul and its

You are stern.
You are unforgiving.
You say, ask for
what you need.

(And the silence
spines and pools
like blood.  This virgin
plate.  This cactus fruit.)

You say, stop painting
the marigolds.
You say, you will
never hold me
in art.

Let me tell you
how I need you
near me.
Let me say, I paint
the flowers so they
will not die. 



I was never certain
who I was supposed
to be here.  And so I brought
you to my suffering.
It was effective,
if ill-advised.  And, god knows,
I chose ill advisors.  How often
do your catch yourself thinking,
why would she live like that?
Only to realize you live like that.
There might be parrots or
packs of hairless dogs
at your feet.  You might paint
the ugly monkey on your
back or call her so drunk
and sweet from a bar down the street.  Just to sleep
in someone’s arms again.
You have long been too old
for such things.  But passion
breeds a kind of reckless
offspring and whisper.  Oranges
and sea spray in her hair.
I would have taken you
anywhere.  Sometimes
we are all accident and
kiss.  Sometimes we
are carnage and rain.


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