Stranger Mouths by Heather Cox

Stranger Mouths

There are rooms where nothing happens
and corners where a body can be
forgotten, without intention. Here,
desire crowds the air. In most places,
you cannot explain to a stranger how much
you love them, and I am tired of pretending
to half-love you all day long. Is there an island
for hearts like engines? For mouths
like engines? For engines like a pillowcase
of feathers? In messages, I use irrational
symbols as a way to mute my speech.
Remembering all the love letters my tongue
wrote in the dim lit mouths of others
is an unrewarding archive, a lightning
bug blink: hours beneath lampshade running
taste buds against my teeth. You can drink
your own language, it doesn’t mean you eat.
Just because I loved you once, doesn’t mean
I’ll love you again (though I will). I find
notes folded within their own geometry
and try to decipher my previous angle.
I fill a tin bucket with a year’s worth
of want, but the rain washes nothing
away. I try my hand at erasure:
There are rooms stranger, mouths
like feathers, letters you loved.
There are forests with downed limbs
obstructing the trail. There are burrows
in the bark the woodpecker
will never fill with her hungry beak.


Heather Cox edits Ghost Ocean Magazine and the handmade chapbook press Tree Light Books. Her work has been published in Barrelhouse, Indiana Review, Chicago Review of Books, PANK, Pinwheel, Nightblock, and elsewhere. A Luminarts Fellow, Heather lives in Colorado and can be found online at

Elijah Tubbs