B&W circle

Notes on what I’ve heard called the End of America; or, Self-Portrait as the Second Mrs. de Winter

Marissa Davis

            After Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier

If there are not phantoms
in the attic, lover,
there are phantoms

hatching from your spine.
Or sleeping cat-like
in the bed between us

or feathered
under the cartilage of my throat.
It means very little

to scream. My voice,
like me, native
to elsewhere,

though look how strung my limbs
within this web
of gothic majesty;

my being reared to manifest
as all luxe and decay—a difference
that tapers like daylight. Yes, I crawled

into her septic force, gummed
her clothes to my skin
like so many wood ticks. Told to fragment

my wrong and haunted body
like a china vase against the sneering
terrace stone,

I almost did it.
I almost did it.

I have called this place
my home, though it
has wrecked me.

And somehow still I call it home
though, so untender,
it spits embers at my back.

Some blazing house
is always telling me to burn,
and all I know to do

is grieve for it.
Darling, I can’t say much,
but that in a springless world

our little kingdom
is deciduous, and this season
burdening our name.

space break


knowledge is a night-

                                                                        ripe fruit—jungle

                                                                                                             of tooth,

                    chest, thigh,


                                                                                                                         suddenly unforbidden,

               we learn in the hunt

                                                                   how: supplication

                                                                                                                                     is muscular,

                                                    is lip & chew,

                                                                                                          tongue, tremor

: prayer submits

                              to be

                                                                a brief
                                                                                     calescent foliage, shudder

                                                                                                        of damp skin                      : fingers

                                                                                                                                     exhume the trill

                   of our want,

                                                                                                      our carbonous

                        smell, our understanding

that satiation                                                 is never

                                                                                                    so much stutter

                                                                                                                              as seize; like lung,

                   only gorges

                   to re-empty.       mouthful

                         of a primitive                          art like foreign                         tongues our bodies

rear into struggle

                                                                                                      yours heat-thick, slick         with my ache

                                                                & frenzy; mine

               tugs forward

                                                                   toward your berry palate.

taken, taker, tangled,

                                                            we bloom

               bare & parallel—

                                                                                                                               ( o voracious
                                                                                                                         perianth )


                   ( o eden avid
                                 as stomach )


                                                                                                             ( o plum
                                                                                                                         blossom, syrup
                                                                                                             stigma ),



                                                                   on paradise, all pulp

                                                                                                             & appetite, your mouth

sighs into my mouth again

                   & the taste of me

                   returns to me:

                                                                                           cracked salt

                                                                                                                           & persimmon.                is not

                   every                   thing

                         so nectared, cyclic.

                                                                                           is not hunger

                                                                                                             the first & last                          divinity.

space break

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.                                                                        

Marissa Davis is a poet and translator from Paducah, Kentucky. Her original poems have appeared in The Carolina Quarterly, Duende, Verse of April, Rattle, and The Iowa Review; her translations are forthcoming in Ezra and Mid-American Review. She will be pursuing an MFA in poetry at NYU beginning Fall 2019.