Jen Rouse


There is a table.  A sweating glass.
And your hands.  Here is a table.
A town.  A home.  My hands.
Bound.  Here is where I heard
you laugh for the first time.  Or
the millionth.  It rings the same
in this tower.  This town.  Inside
the bells of belief, I listened
from across a table.  A glass.
An hour.  —and I have taken
a lover.  A town.  A home.  Not
my own.  Not you.  Or yours. 
I have taken a handful of sunsets.
And turned them over my tongue.
Like your laughter.  There has never
been.  Ours.  I went inside and slowly
turned around the tower.  All glass. 
The crack was imperceptible.  The imperfection
was so small and rooted.  I touched
the town.  Untouched your hands.
Unbound belief.  The glass.  An hour.
There is a table.  Your laughter. 
Someone else will remember. 
It will not be me.

Jen Rouse currently lives in Iowa City with her partner and two rambunctious wheaten terriers. She directs the Center for Teaching and Learning at Cornell College. Her work can be found in Poetry, Pidgeonholes, Shadowplay, Sweet Literary, and elsewhere. Her chapbooks: Riding with Anne Sexton, A Trickle of Bloom Becomes You, Cake, and Acid & Tender are available through Headmistress Press. Find new poems from Rouse in The Cities of the Plains: An Anthology of Iowa Artists and Poets. Rouse is currently an Elizabeth Kostova  Foundation fellow. Fragments of V, her forthcoming chapbook, will be available Fall 2024 through Small Harbor Press.