Feature Poet: Jen Rouse

Jen Rouse is the Director of the Center for Teaching and Learning at Cornell College, a playwright, and a poet. Her poetry has been published in Anti-Heroin Chic, The CDC Poetry Project, The Inflectionist Review, Midwestern Gothic, Poetry, Up the Staircase, and elsewhere. She has work forthcoming in Parentheses and Sliver of Stone. Find her at jen-rouse.com and on Twitter @jrouse.


Chasing the Dragon

Tell me what
the dormouse said.
Tell me how
a junkie spends
her day. Tell me whatever
was broken
was unnecessary
anyway. Tell me
all you crave now
is quiet. Tell me
how to ride the beast
and wield the sword.
Tell me when you crack
your jaw wide
you don’t sing about
forgiveness anymore.
Tell me why it’s you
the mirror bleeds
and bleeds for—and
the moon sends
out her light like
a million stallions
galloping. Tell me
how does your god go
down—on a bed of thorns
or crowned?


A Few Words from the Tired Magician

You have sawed me in half
and disappeared me from just
about everything—the swaying
roof of a skyscraper, the bowels
of a submarine, a murky
goldfish bowl, six feet
of brilliant soil, a tomb and
a tightrope and a ticking
bomb. The once beloved
palm of your hand. Good
lord, the list.

But here’s my little secret:
I am terrified of drowning and
my inability to stay out of
straightjackets. This is a kind
of crazy that surfaces like the
mirrored sheen of a dolphin
and disappears just as quickly.
Right as you catch a glimpse of me
going under, I will have already
turned away, turned the disco
ball on, turned the attention
to you. And you are infinitely
flattered. You are spectacular
in the light.

These are choices,
I realize: to walk again into
the water, to allow your
arms around my body in a death
grip, to chain my arms against
your chest, to dislocate us in
an empty attempt at escape. To fill
the pockets with the most
beautiful stones, so what we
say does not matter, just
the secure cinching of the straps,
the body dragging the bottom,
bumping along the sand. Let’s
be serious for once and wrap
this up. I am hardly here
already. My beloved assistant,
my dear executioner.


Ride the Snake

In the Valley of Fire, her Mercury
Cougar sighs and purrs one last time,
gives up the ghost. There’s just enough
battery power left to blare The Doors
as the heat begins to slither its
way into the open windows. He’s
hell bent on dying, you know? Loves
the Mojave and a good trip. She
cranks the sound just a little more,
rocks against the leather, silk
headscarf fluttering somehow in
the windless desert scape. She pounds
the steering wheel to the frenetic
drum beats, and drifts into his final
message: This is the end, beautiful friend
This is the end, my only friend

The end.*

Do you ever wonder about these ancient
messages? She’s left the car
to trace her hand shakily over a petroglyph.
Unconcerned that we’re being whipped
by the tail of a red sandstone serpent.
And all that’s in the car is piss-warm
vodka. Don’t you want to throw
a spear and see what you’d hit? I would
lead the group. I would be the hunter
with the most prowess! Maybe this
is a poem. Maybe they were on a journey
too. Maybe they were just out here
riding the snake. Lucky bastards. I
bet they found god.

It’s hard to stop her. I used to say:
“When she’s like this.” But she’s
always like this. Until she’s not,
and we curl up in the center
of the sidewinder, waiting it out,
or pulling as though one of us
made it to the other side.


*Morrison, Jim. “The End.” The Doors. Elektra, 1967.


All Hail! The finalist for the Charlotte Mew Prize, Jen Rouse’s Acid and Tender (2016) is available via its publisher, Headmistress Press. Simply click on the cover image below to learn more . . .

Previous Feature: Edward Lee

Edward Lee has had poetry, short stories, non-fiction and photography published in Ireland, England, and the U.S. His publication credits include Acumen, Skylight 47, Smiths Knoll and The Stinging Fly, among others. His debut poetry collection, Playing Poohsticks On Ha’Penny Bridge (2009), was published by Spider Press. To learn more about Edward, please visit his blog, Peanuts from the Cheap Seats.


Memories Worthy of Dust

The museum of us
is down a narrow
piss-smelling alley.
Inside the exhibitions are dusty,
some broken, while photographs
have faded beneath the weak light
shining through the dirty skylight.

The opening hours are Monday to Friday,
midnight to noon,
Closed for lunch, an hour,
whenever the curator is hungry.
It only opens on the weekend
by special arrangement,
though no such arrangements
have ever been made.

Visitors that do come,
only do so once,
and never for long,

bar one visitor
who has visited more than once,
each visit lasting forever,

that visitor, of course,
being me,
of course, me.


Self Medication

The day barely born
and already drunk,
or still drunk,
depending upon
your point of view,

my view being blurred,
so when sleep finally
captures me
the dreaming echoes of my mind
will not horrify me
into seeking more than this
temporary blindness.


Better Living Through Damage

The crack in my skull
lets air in,
cooling my brain,
softening my thoughts.

I feel no rage
now that my brain
is almost frozen;
truth be told
I feel very little

except cold,
and alone,

in my cool indifference
that some mistake for calmness,

those few souls left
who notice such events
outside their own damaged skulls.


Join Me

Tied tight
by knots
of my own making,
I try to unravel myself enough
so that you
might add
another knot
to those
holding me together.


Got Troubles? Then Midnight Lane Boutique is here for you. Simply click on the image below, and one of our trained counselors will assist you . . .

Previous Feature: J.J. Campbell

J.J. Campbell (1976 – ?) is currently at war with himself and is losing. He’s been widely published over the years, most recently at The Apache Poetry Blog, Easy Street, In Between Hangovers, Record Magazine and Rusty Truck. You can find him most days bitching about something trivial at his mildly entertaining blog, evil delights.


my monday afternoon

sitting in a room
listening to my mother
talking about being
molested as a child
by a neighbor and
thinking about suicide
is not exactly how i
thought i would be
spending my monday

but when the alternative
is wallowing in my own
mental shit

it’s probably better than

what i had planned


tossing and turning

i like to take
a broken piece
of glass and rub
it against my skin

any blood i think
of as a sacrifice to
creativity, love, any
desire i have to see
the sun on the other
side of the world

a beautiful woman
slept in my bed last

she complained about
me tossing and turning
in my dreams

i asked if i could see
her again and i woke

some cuts are deeper

than others


alcohol can do wonders

eventually you will see
the sunrise for the fifth
day in a row

insomnia has taken

you are stupid enough
to think you can still
burn the candle at
both ends at your


explain that alcohol
can do wonders

that for some lucky
souls it just works

and when their concern
becomes anger

remind them that you’ll
be dead before it will
really matter to them

they will never
understand it

and you have finally
decided it’s not worth
your fucking time to

try to explain it


All Hail! J.J. Campbell’s chapbook, Consequences No Longer Matter (2016), is available via Epic Rites Press. It’s part of the Punk Chapbook Series 2016, with all cover art created by Janne Karlsson. To learn more about this series, please click on the cover image below . . .

Previous Feature: Misti Rainwater-Lites

Misti Rainwater-Lites is the CEO of Chupacabra Disco which means she’s pretty much all bluster and no pesos. She Tweets. She Instagrams. She blogs. She YouTubes. Yay technology. Misti updates www.youareauthorized.com on a manic basis.


Big Deal Credit Card

I’m on disability but I lie about it
when I apply for credit cards,
say that I’m bringing in $50K a year,
so I finally score a big deal credit card
and go crazy, walk into the music shop
like I own the place, pick out a pink
electric guitar and an orange amp,
then decide to treat myself
to a big deal trip
so I Google and dream of Fiji,
Lima, Guanajuato, Cuba, San Francisco,
Paris, Lisbon, Dublin, Barcelona, Memphis.
But then I get scared
because I don’t know anyone
and even though I have a bad ass friend
who has done Greece and other big deal places
on her own
I’m still the shy and terrified little girl
so afraid of her first grade teacher
she pissed her pants
and rode the bus home soggy
so I stay in San Antonio
strumming my guitar
pretending to be Courtney Love meets Patti Smith
meets Richard Brautigan meets God.


Concentration in Creative Writing

Finally got that piece of paper that proves
I know how to jump through hoops of fire.
To most motherfuckers it’s nada.
You show up at some dipshit college
fresh from some dipshit high school,
a few keggers and lousy fucks under your belt.
You pick a convenient major.
You show up to class hungover.
You get a few more keggers and lousy fucks
under your belt and then you graduate,
your parents buy a cake and some balloons,
it’s all over Facebook and Instagram
because you are just that adored,
and then you get some big deal cock sucking American job.
Hurrah. Hurrah.
But for me it was drop out, have an unplanned pregnancy,
get on food stamps and Medicaid, hand my newborn
to a couple of financially stable Christians,
go back to college with creamed corn for a brain,
drop out again, visit the psych ward a few times,
get married and divorced a couple of times,
co-parent with the second ex,
have the down and out in San Francisco
experience for a month,
live with a twice-convicted felon in a border town motel,
go back and with clenched fists and gritted teeth make that
shit work, finally.
Bachelor of arts in English.
Concentration in creative writing.
Piece of
fucking cake.


When You Aren’t

the small press suicide
a few ass scratching bet placing voyeurs
expect you to be
you wake up in San Antonio, Texas
in donut pajamas
look at your silent Android
go back to sleep
dream of going to hell
and it’s an open mic
and everyone has a chapbook to sell
and everyone is fucking someone whose name
is always on the fucking flyer
and you’re sitting alone sober
no track marks
no street cred to speak of
just another white bitch
from Texas suburbia
and when you read your poems
there’s silence because no one has to be
polite in hell
and then you wake up again
and post the dream to your blog
to give the ass scratching bet placing voyeurs
one more reason
to hate you


All Hail! Misti Rainwater Lites’ novel, Bullshit Rodeo (Epic Rites Press, 2016), is available on Amazon. To learn more, simply click on the cover image below . . .

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