VESSEL AND SHELL
Like putting the smooth pink surface of shell
to ear, your slight frame in my arms roars.
I didn't walk into the ocean to die.
There is no tragedy here. There is you—
ageless as a wave, as the rippling synapse
of memory connects. I cannot displace
you collapse you corrupt you
hush every delicate piece of you
and response hush
So empty in your presence I break
shamelessly sand into glass into sand
It is something to fall through
one’s own fingers.
And layers of sediment collect:
BENEATH YOUR COMPASSION
Stained-glass Madonna spreads
her arms wide in blessing and
spider webs sway with silken
sins inside the confessional.
Delicate blue veins, determined
maps leading up tanned legs,
thrum an amazing grace, and,
like slow-suffering votives,
your eyes betray
what no one else notices.
But I do.
Across the aisle, I see you
and turn you prayer. Dear god
to hear her boot on the stair,
to find her curled around me
like a seashell roaring
and arching its back. Come back.
Calling. Please tell me we
have met. Have we met?
Assuming I had ever left.
Sometimes she smiles
or asks if I’m ok,
sometimes this crucifying rain,
and the pounding our hearts take
when we barely make it to the car.
I am waiting for snow in a way I never wait for snow—this purple pomegranate sky should just split open and let all the seeds out. Maybe I should tear all the seeds out and line them up like freshwater pearls. I have giant hands. Not for delicate matters. Not for the flakes catching on your lashes. I'm falling to the bottom of the snowy salty ocean. I should make you a necklace before you go. Of pearls and snow. Of all the ways I thought this snow might be. Snow like the fierce voice of Sirens. Snow like the promise of fingers. Snow like the space between your neck and shoulder. The smell of snow like becoming new. Snow and the way I have always wanted. To drift. Here are these seeds. Under my tongue. Like crystals of sugar. Like the way you cry. Like a terrible confession. Take one.
JEN ROUSE's poems have appeared in Poetry, Poet Lore, Midwestern Gothic, Wicked Alice, Yes Poetry, 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 jen-rouse.com and on Twitter @jrouse.