It was like that,

in the cathedral night,

lighting candles cradled

in Dixie cups of sand.

We turned and greeted

each other: Peace be with you.

I believed in

the cloistered silence,

the careful, baying Latin.

When the stained roses

flickered in liquid amber,

the way

we were together

was religious.  Intensified

beside her, I was a

blessed child with voice

and vision.



all sinew and stretch,

my arm small and smooth

against hers.  The hand we share—

hers aging and the color

of cut fruit left out in air,

mine, chubby and fumbling,

golden in the fire’s glow;

mine now, hers then, the

bagging knuckle skin and

carefully kept nails.   

We touch match to wick

in the jewel-hued votive,

and I wait for her to live.

the art of charming




I have bought a basket

for my cobras to writhe in

But I begin too quickly

First I bought a flute in its full glory

satin-tipped ivory notes

pulling from hesitant

lips spiraling

echoes of forgotten

forgotten sighs




I was at the door

I was walking through

I wanted to take you

and you said

It was difficult walking in

Why should this be any different

And I remembered

when I first learned to speak

without you





I have bought a basket

for my cobras to writhe in


So quiet before you they slept in slow coils

glinting black sequins striking in the sun

I stood mesmerized by the entanglement

You saw only woven patterns

You pulled them apart

and I dove in


You would be astounded

by the sound I make now.

Jen Rouse’s poems have appeared in Poetry, Poet Lore, Midwestern Gothic, Sandy River Review, Yes Poetry, former cactus, 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 published in 2016 by Headmistress Press. Find her at jen-rouse.com and on Twitter @jrouse.