Sometimes, in my head,
I give up. It's usually in
the aisle full of paper
products. It's there
that a Pink song vomits
from above, a woman
wearing your perfume
passes my cart, and I
can't decide. On.
Anything. So I curl up
there on the cold tile
where the mouse just
ran by, and we are all
shocked, sanitized
and alone, together.
And sometimes,
in my head, I see myself
there, under the hideous
fluorescent gaze of it all,
curled and crying into
the sleeve of my sweater,
and I think, wow,
damn, someone should
help her. Get her off
the floor. At least.

we are all curled and
crying on the floor,
unable to save
the person next to us
or in us or wars and
worlds away. I want
to tell you that I
know you tried. I want
to believe we
will find each other



Rope in teeth spinning madly—
slight girl against sky the color of cream
and candle wax. There is always incense
and a soft cashmere lap. Her sweater is
woven in strands of phoenix—which sounds
nice, more comforting than funeral pyre
lace. She has so much belief in absence
and hope in bitter abundance.

When she is not spinning,
she drives in circles ‘round small towns
and stops at soda fountains. She looks through
the tinted green glass and longs for days
of small children clotting the counters,
scrambling for seats on flecked gold stools
and the first frothy cherry cokes of the afternoon.

When she is not driving,
she dangles her gloved legs over the edge,
plunges her toes into shocking water.
The fish fight over the manicured tips.
She spins        she circles them           tail flared
She fires them all        shimmer and candor
Her gills quiver.
Her gills quiver.

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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 and on Twitter @jrouse.