Five Poems by Jason Phoebe Rusch

Fear Is a Tool of the Devil

and We have let that weapon

fashioned against us

prosper                                            mightily

in the world:

we have forgotten                   to consider


the birds, the lilies

how God loves us even better;

we are not always clothed and fed, even those who are not



we can not

by worrying

add a single minute

to our lives                                                                              —and yet

so many                                   have            (crunched     numbers lives in a dark room)


sided with a jackal

in this wilderness

thinking to hoard manna

as if silvery lies don’t rot overnight.



It sounds like your mother resents men, a therapist
once told me. Maybe that explains your preferences.


A woman I slept with, also estranged from her father,
asked me if I’d ever wondered

if this was why
we both desired to latch
onto the warmth of breast.


A drunk boy at a party talks
about the end of the world.

Another, more circumspect,
about overpopulation.


In another culture, I might have been
antennae, spirit-channel, rattling hive
of ghosts. Sacred neuter. Uncle-aunt.
That’s a valid social function.


Mental illness.
Demonic possession.
Hormonal imbalance.

to a different chemical
bath in the womb.
Hair whorls. Finger lengths.
Cortex formation.
Legs crossed

or claiming space. Did you
climb trees and eat mud
as a child or prance
in costume jewelry?

to be simple, straightforward,
to use your body as obviously
designed. Pray to draw a line
called sense

through this fallen garden, to transcend
the urgency of thirst.

Be vessel.


My father, who believes in past lives,
told me his bi-curious college roommate
turned straight after recovering
the memory of dying in childbirth,
resolving the trauma.


Did my therapist turn out straight
because she grew up in a two-parent household?

Do contradictions have worth
outside of resolution?

Do I resent men?

Does that explain or pre-determine
pressing my lips to the base
of a woman’s throat
in the shower, predict her soft, her moan,

of any need to answer any question?


Transitive Property

If a equals b and b equals c, then a equals c

a) A woman is only as valuable as she is desired by a man, and a man won’t desire me if I am not a woman or a man but something else entirely, therefore my value is this body.

b) I read an article about a woman who thought she was a man but still wanted to fuck men, my dad told me once. Human sexual behavior, he said, is so obsessive and freakish, so strange. And I thought, better to be pretty than strange, if I want to find love.

c) You’re my child and I don’t think of you sexually, my father’s apology for telling me I was most beautiful as a two-year-old began, but your best friend, who isn’t exactly Miss America either, I’d be on that like white on rice if I was twenty years younger. You’re as attractive as she is.


Facebook Knows

I am not out, not even to myself, and yet a page for FtMs seeking to build muscle mass appears in my suggestions. Pictures of packers, limp silicone cocks cut and uncut, briefs cut to outline them. The taste of salt in the back of my throat. Index finger picks at cuticle, blood wells up, a red bead. I have a choice, I tell myself, I can choose to be a girl. I lie.


White Civilization

In the wild, mothers eat
their young. Wolves maul

those who disagree. Why
do we believe ourselves

to be tender, reasoned,
impartial? Why are we

surprised by our feral, our
amoral, project our primeval

onto those we rape and savage?
We gratify

ourselves. That is what animals
do. Bare teeth and claws, hold

each other down. The metric being
power, not love. But we knew this

already. We, the most fearsome
stewards, lordships, whiny

when contested, wielding
the earth against itself.




Jason Phoebe Rusch‘s work as a poet and essayist has appeared or is forthcoming in Cheap Pop, Lambda Literary’s poetry spotlight, Broadly, Bust magazine, Entropy, Luna Luna, World Policy Journal, and CCM’s A Shadow Map anthology. He has an MFA in fiction from University of Michigan.

What’s HFR up to? Read our current issue, submit, or write for Heavy Feather.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.