Literature Spotlight: Ciona Rouse

Ciona Rouse is a poet living in Nashville, Tennessee. Her poetry is featured on WPLN Nashville Public Radio, Nashville Public Television, and Matter. Rouse’s first poetry chapbook will be released mid-2017 by Third Man Books. She believes in the power of poetry out loud in public spaces, and she curates many literary experiences in the city, including the monthly Lyrical Brew reading series at Barnes & Noble and Writings on the Wall, an interactive poetry reading at Atmalogy.

but no air
for Année Juredline Rouse Tinsley: Dec. 4, 2013

You began at 4:58 pm
when I learned tears cry schizophrenia.   I
sighed a smile and sorrow, begged
to exchange all previously answered prayers.

I cursed my own breath when I learned
were heartbeat but no air.
    Why? Can’t my
experienced lungs breathe for you?
Tears cry schizophrenia. I let them go mad.

For two hours, you were. Heartbeat
    strong, and I
still swear you muscled a smile but no air
flowing through your body, small as a palm.
This. Was hello. And I love you. And goodbye.

The heavens stand strong, and I
still swear at them, even though God doesn’t
quiver in the cosmos at should:

how you should grab my pinkie
feel fragile in my arms   how we
should skype the day your mom
teaches you to say auntie how she
should drop you off for a week
of homemade pie and cupcakes
   how I
should expose   
you to poetry and French films
and let four-letter words
into your lexicon   how you
should ask me about birds,
   bees, honey
and all things    
too sticky for her    
how we
should take photographs together
on your graduation days
   how I
should look at them and remember how

You muscled a smile when I whispered your name.
Did you know the voice of your biggest fan?   
but no air.

You ended by 7pm
when I learned some requests for miracles get
no responses no matter
how prostrate
 you find yourself on the floor.



the mouth
entry point of garbage
and good, the original
scissor, the courier of voice
lips make and receive
kisses, gums bleed
at tiny string touches

the radio proclaims the mouth
has healing properties.
the saliva it produces
breaks down, yes, but also
builds up, toughens skin. how maybe
a mama’s kiss on a wound
really does make it all better.

i wonder if they knew—
when they clenched their cheeks
summoned enough liquid
in their mouths
to fire at young black boys,
black girls ordering a cold drink
—did they know the whole truth

about spit?

Do The Crazy Thing

Do the crazy
The hard to imagine but
somehow you did
The brings you to your knees
The no one would ever
do it that way
The safety net would not
even matter
The it could kill you
but not trying is
another kind of death
The thing
on your heart, do it
and let them gasp
right before they call it
a thing of wonder


oh shit i yell, & you turn the fan on as i bounce
around the kitchen shaking my finger making
shit shit shit my refrain. alleluia.
you grab a stick of cold butter because that’s what
your mama’s mama told her & she told you. i ask
for ice because my mama says butter makes the skin
sizzle, & i don’t know if grandma told her that
or if she learned from experience but now we
giggle-argue, you by the refrigerator door shaking butter
at my face, me by the sink baptizing my forefinger
with cold cold water. alleluia.
& the oven still smokes from whatever it is i burned.
this time. & i remember: hey wait a minute! you turned
the fan on before checking on me! & you laugh.
so hearty, juicy. i want to call you asshole but instead
say, my god you’re so hot. Allelu.

blackbodies [Vantablack]

when they finally found the deepest
black, everyone looked in wonder
at its power to hold everything—
all the earth’s light—in
its bosom.
it never
had to work twice
as hard to prove
it mattered.

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