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. 

Self-Portrait as Persephone

I am afraid of his long man’s body
the way it creeps toward me in the gray
marrow of the night the way
I yearn for it to split me open
like a blade does a soft fruit

this is what my mother warned me about
when I was young & still combed my hair with poplar twigs
& ran barefoot between the rising yellow grains
that looked like sunrays & spun the sunrays into life

my navel then still smooth & smelling
like blue milk    my head like sweat & sweet
almond oil when my mother labored
against my wild down   bridled it flat to my scalp

as if that meant I would not shiver
towards the mouths of beasts
or lay my body

flat against the earth & trail
my nose across it my lips & yes my tongue
pretending it was

o I do not know what I pretended that it was
but in the endless summer
how the tree fruits puffed & tumbled

wind-felled sunken half-moons & I remember
how the sunheat turned their meat & the air
surged syrup-sharp gnat-thick

each month I ate just one from the ground

thinking this is what it will be like to be a woman
nectar in my mouth overflowing acid sugar mold sour light

but that was before I licked the honey blood
from arils before inside my cavern abdomen
hunger burst open         what strange & tender poppy

before my mother’s howls
snapped the land to crystal       now I align
with winter clinging
to the dark its swell its tightening
cold & taking this man

my mouth a resurrection so lush & animal
my plump body sharp against his seams

I rename night emergence
rename myself bloom, beast, knife

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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