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When the Blood Came

some days, rain. some days, rain, but harder.

a river of pink mimosa frenzying, loosing blooms

like feathered animals

into noonheat’s slack & dizzy. she dizzies. she feels

a slowthick dripping.

waxing in her: night. a space, like death, without language: only the smell of dragonflies brawning out of murk. of fawn glazed pink with afterbirth. the new moon throbbing,

a sound like blood. she listens for blood—

for rhythms. the ravens’ loud generations.

seedlings that reek & stiffen in the wet-hot soil.

beginning to hear: the red dirt moan—now,

for the cool fingertips of water;

now, for june’s many-toothed light.

beginning to hear: reasons a live thing might ache—

burn & flux. quick frost. spring’s virile hysterias: its cracking, stretching. the occasional eclipse. other designs

she cannot name.

she blushes at cattails without knowing why.

her bud lips puff & heavy like the violent iris. her body

twists, fruits yens. she wants:

to make the lifeblack noise of flowers,

to share their pollen’s dissonance—

to feel, beneath the soil, groundwater shift its length in ways that quicken her breath— to hold something of the earth in her mouth

& shiver when

it cuts. to yield

measures of her limited

life, offer it to air—& survive

the spilling, keep growing

taller & nearer to root.

her veins a throne of copper hornets. that stain

an amen & its own amen.


Elegy for the Living

on the classmates of Tamir Rice

heard they the willow weeping

hard salt & several seas

the moon once

a smile now

white like

stripped spine

warbles red down the robins’ chests

pours red from the mouth of every maple in the blazing country see they april’s grin gone toothless crooked ask what good now that brightsweet air turned viscous on the skin

& what will mean the first-bloomed violet now (vein-blue) or the clover unbraided (& colored like bone) or hopscotch squares leap-empty or the art of secret handshakes

or anyone’s good name

where did it go the unblistered free

era when mamas at least pretended n

ot to pull the shades talked dusk tigers prowling only late late to papa you hear that pop

munch of another metal fang

you see the news

ripened they quick

by the no-sun

& stopped asking how to spell

lavishly &

luminous or if x's in algebra want to be solved

instead how many pounds will it be the weight lifelong

of all their pretty

heavy forever & ever & ever since now


MARISSA DAVIS is a poet and translator from Paducah, Kentucky, now residing in Brooklyn, New York. An MFA student at New York University, her poetry has appeared or will soon appear in Rattle, Sundog Lit, Poem-A-Day, Frontier Poetry, Glass, Nimrod, and New South, among other journals. Her translations are published in Ezra and forthcoming in Mid-American Review, RHINO, The Massachusetts Review, and New England Review. 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.

(Photo Credit: Caitlin Vazquez)

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