BY HEATHER COX
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
BY HEATHER COX
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
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
bread. I praise the bees for fleeing the hive.
I drip with honey. Belly, a nest of stingers.