If you build your castles,
grand towers of brick
and mortar meeting;
small glued piles of macaroni;
my fingers against your fingers;
then they are things built
and worthy.  Walls dripping hands
and hands meeting.  Did we
meet shadows and shadows
met mirrors, the black and gooey
slip down the sides of walls?
It is possible your face
touched me and the fear
clutched like hands.

In my hands
I hold sand,
the compression and weight
of granules building
layers in palm-cutting blue.
This first blue cold and wanting
air, a crimson bursting.
Because something must let go
and something must stay,
all this in the breath over your bed,
our heads are bent as though
to a wind we cannot compete
against, pushing back and back.
I would lean in further
and you would cry sand
because we have spilled all the water,
used every available material.
I have used everything I have.

I have pleaded the sacrifice
in wan earnest face,
a palette-knifed mound
of muted hue.

JEN ROUSE's poems have appeared in Poetry, Poet Lore, Midwestern Gothic, Sandy River Review, Parentheses, Yes Poetry, former cactus, Up the Staircase, Southern Florida Poetry Journal, L'Éphémère Review, and elsewhere. She was named a finalist for the Mississippi Review 2018 Prize Issue and was the winner of the 2017 Gulf StreamSummer Contest Issue. Rouse’s chapbook, Acid and Tender, was published in 2016 by Headmistress Press. Find her at and on Twitter @jrouse.