Back to Issue Twenty-Three.

Forbidden Fruit



Beer belly of summer. You can’t remember
the last time your mouth wasn’t pregnant
with peach pits. Sweat beading in the crook

of your arm, you cut the lawn with a mower
older than your grandfather. The night felt
like an elegy, the morning like a handful

of hymns someone sang to you from atop
a mountain. Everything in between
blurred like steam rising from pavement.

Everything in between was her hands—
her hands were in between everything. Her lips,
red ripe like cherries eager to plummet

from the tree. Dirt roads and riverbeds, summer
felt like eternity, a gift not even a god
could take away, no matter how hard you sinned.

The necks of dandelions purpled, but you
had your own palate for bruising. You
discovered how to cut away rot without

spoiling the fruit. You trained your taste buds
to tell you what you needed to hear, puckering
despite her nectar baptizing your tongue.



Self-Portrait as a Vessel for Debris



after Natalie Diaz


I am what I am. I brought forth swarms

or I am a vessel for swarms. Your ear
to my chest nearly deaf from the buzzing.

I never loved a man, but I let him love me
in the back of his pickup, parked

on the clay road of the cemetery. I was
dead then. I was skeletal. Someone else’s

skin clung to my bones. I’d open
my mouth and hollyhock would fall out,

black magic. I’d open my legs, the gate
to the cemetery swung wider. I am a vessel,

my body was a temple for destruction.
My mouth prayed on her lips in the locker

room. My hands prayed, my knees, each
strand of hair. Grape juice tickled my

tongue, carpet burned my knees, a wafer
grew limp between my teeth. I begged

in every language I knew for her
to love me. Love me sideways, upside

down, and inside out. I prayed to each
freckle on her too-tan cheeks. Little

River baptized the others, but I stayed
dry as dust. My mouth tried to convert her

for worship, but such a lost sheep. She never
bowed to my waist for a taste of holy water.


I am what I am, and I am your god.
I swallowed the rainbow, chased it

to the alpha, the omega, and someone
swiped the pot of gold, if it ever existed.

I am myth. I am a magician. I am
a two-sided coin. Tails or heads?

I used to be dead. I was born again.
Now I’m unborn and unbroken, hodgepodge

lodged in one being, one body. My flesh:
a crime scene, a catalog of debris. I am

a walking catacomb. The first time
I died. How could you think that

was living? A gaggle of ghosts swarm
inside me, unnamed. The Gospel of Nothing

is what brought you here, now worship.


I pledged allegiance
to Nothing

and I signed on the dotted line.
I cut on the dotted line. I cut out

the gut, the rot, the rut of the mutt life I lived.
I lick my wounds, the memory of my wounds

licked by others. I am an altar. I pray to myself. I am
Church of Resurrection, called back from beneath

a bottle of tiny white bullets to the redemption
of her thighs. She is the Chapel of Reciprocation.


The doors are always open. I am Cathedral
of Burn the Cowboy Boots with the Barn.

Burn this inscription into your other
inscriptions. Burn the face of the night

so it resembles the day. This day, this daily
I praise the bees for fleeing the hive.

I drip with honey. Belly, a nest of stingers.


Heather Cox edits Ghost Ocean Magazine and the handmade chapbook press Tree Light Books. Her work has been published in Chicago Review of Books, BarrelhousePinwheel, Bodega, and elsewhere, and she is the recipient of a Luminarts Cultural Foundation of Chicago Fellowship. She is the author of Echolocation (dancing girl press), Magnificent Desolation (Finishing Line Press), and Mole People (BatCat Press), which is nominated for an Elgin Award. Heather lives in Colorado with her wife and their two dogs, and can be found online at

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