237 cabinets. You are a woman. You are poison. Thorned in this palm, a peony unfurling. When there is a massacre, when the people split and the heavens hide their gods, you refuse to leave the throne. At tea, the devil’s trumpet. And all of the ladies unlace. Just a little. There hasn’t been a moment for breath. And if they would call you a great king, cunt and all, would you accept the compliment? But they will never. Behind the first door is a pair of perfumed gloves. A fork behind the second. Some science that sounds like sorcery, third. How dare you be Italian. You are a curiosity in your own cupboard. Bad mother. And you are. And you are not. Belladonna. Black widow. When you prick your own finger, what do you taste on your tongue?
Jen Rouse is the Director of the Center for Teaching and Learning at Cornell College in Mount Vernon, IA. Her poems have appeared in Poetry, Poet Lore, MadHatLit, Pretty Owl, The Tishman Review, Inflectionist Review, Midwestern Gothic, Sinister Wisdom, and elsewhere. She has new work at the Plath Poetry Project, and is the winner of the 2017 Gulf StreamSummer Poetry Contest. Rouse was named a finalist by Ellen Bass in the Charlotte Mew Poetry Chapbook contest. Her chapbook, Acid and Tender, came out December 2016 from Headmistress Press.