The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: My Name & Other Languages I am Learning how to Speak by Marissa Davis

This selection, chosen by Guest Curator H.V. Cramond, is from My Name & Other Languages I am Learning how to Speak by Jai-Alai Books in 2020. 

Requiem for a Rabat Hammam

Steam & my body plump & deranged
as a stormhead. Eden lost
to the whim of teeth, my two hands
hardly a single fig leaf. Even mist
an imagined condemnation
of eyes, light-lean, splitting me
like water splits
against the tiles’ blue sag.
Splash & I was raised that a good woman
bolts knees & binds
indefinite ankles & wears her body
ambiguously, wears her body like a bracelet
that is slipping off her wrist as she walks.
& she is otherwise occupied
ruminating the most effective ways
to vanish. & here my breasts lolling
& my splayed palms urgent
& repentant & incapable of miracle.
Oil & the bald skin slick as tongue.
too freshly shaved & every pore
a conflagration & a woman touches me, black
soaps, sloughs & presses: here the tyrannical
shoulder, here the sinister
arm & back & stomach
yet she does not recoil
& how did I not notice all around—
new mothers, slack-bellied,
their toddlers drumming their gracious thighs;
hipless girls with thready saffron calves;
elders’ wilted calligraphy of folds;
heat & my recent skin becoming
gray flake, washing away with the water.
O how we in the bath
are an alphabet of women.
& for the first time
my hands drop,
my body shouts its name.

Photo by Caitlin Vazquez

Marissa Davis is a poet and translator from Paducah, Kentucky. Her poetry has appeared in Poetry, Poem-A-Day, Great River Review, Southeast Review, Rattle, West Branch, Mississippi Review, Muzzle Magazine, and Best New Poets, among others. Her translations are published or forthcoming in Massachusetts Review, New England Review, Mid-American Review, The Common, Rhino, American Chordata, and The Offing. Her chapbook, My Name & Other Languages I Am Learning How to Speak (Jai-Alai Books, 2020) was selected by Danez Smith for Cave Canem’s 2019 Toi Derricotte and Cornelius Eady Prize, and she was the runner-up of Narrative Magazine‘s 2021 30 Below contest. Davis holds an MFA from New York University.

H.V. Cramond holds an MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and was the founding Poetry Editor of Requited Journal for 10 years. In 2018, she helped pass the Survivor’s Bill of Rights as the Illinois organizer for Rise. Recent work can be found in Soundless Poetry, Ignavia, death hums, Crack the Spine, BlazeVOX, Menacing Hedge, Adanna, So to Speak, Thank You for Swallowing, Dusie, Masque & Spectacle, Matter, and at


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