“Katabasis” by Marissa Davis

Marissa Davis


Persephone Recollects

In a dream: cold rains falling
in reverse out the autumn earth 

I felt my body & my body was saltwater

I helped a doe loose a fawn from itself,
branch its flesh, surrender 
half its heaviness to sun & breath with a force 
as hot & mute as lightning 
but the child—I held it in my hands—
the child was stillborn

In a dream I touched my loneliness, I smelled it 
it had the texture of unkempt wool, the scent of semen
& I decided to keep it 

Under earth, I braided my hair with lanolin, 
let my coils riot like roots. I believed
my own end, no cruelty. Every soul 
learned winter’s bite but me
& I was happy

                       no no 
I was not happy, I wanted to run 
through the storm-soaked fields again
& see cold branches 
standing naked as a man 
& tell my mother I’m sorry
for our twinned sorrows 

I wanted to shout my own name over & over—
for once, it felt like a strawberry on my tongue, 
that firm & real—& I could taste 
the memory of ambrosia
o god      it was there      it was mine again 
see, death is a kind of longing
just as longing is a kind of death

I am learning to love myself a little better here
& that means knowing 
what I deserved. I deserved something 
much brighter than this 

In a dream the history I am made of
is not the history I am made of. 
I am neither a sin nor a series
of endings. As I won’t be.
In that world, I never staggered under sour 
bloodbeads of pomegranate—
maybe there is even no such thing—

so when I look in the mirror 
all I see is my life
performing the very action of life 

my face more than a face, 
a consummation & a radicle
a nucleus, a wellspring 

I never wanted to wake up 
but the earth 

taught me many things, 
including the necessity of closing a parenthesis 

including that it is possible
to survive one’s own death,
though you must be altered

I could almost die
for wanting me

All this light. My blue heart 
thrashes like a fish

from Rattle #72, Summer 2021
Tribute to Appalachian Poets


Marissa Davis: “Though I was raised mostly in western Kentucky, my parents are from Ironton, Ohio, a small river town in the Appalachian foothills where most of my family still lives. In a way, the region is the ancestral home of my craft as much as my personhood—so much of my interest in poetry is born from an interest in music, and my conception of the rhythms of language is rooted in the particular cadences of my family’s speech: how vowels peak and flatten like the landscape, infusing any utterance with melody. In terms of theme, too, it holds its influence. The psychological and physical relationships of humans to land and environment is central to my work, and the physical spaces of my childhood—whether that’s the woods of my home, the hills and valleys of my parents’, or the Ohio River they both share—define the vocabulary of images I use to shape these conversations.” (web)

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