Marissa Davis

“VIII: [ways to be lonely],” Caroline Harper New

Then, Cathedral

half-hearted morning running i blame
the nobility of beige the anticipated autumn
routes & my lack of decisiveness when dropped
before the prongs of a forked road
for this remembrance

& i blame the necessity of goodbyes
the tough sprinting feet of children but mostly
the surprise of saint martin of tours flowering off knickerbocker
its old world face nearly making
brooklyn’s long strange less strange

in this street i find those cloudgold rues again
where i lived in joy & dreary poverty
fruit flies valsing over optimistic mugs of cider vinegar
open windows in june saxophone plowing rain
those alleys i also stained up with lackluster jogs to the seine i believe
it was off rue des carmes
i’d walk with carmen under pink magnolia
the pantheon’s hulking lats posed apollically in dusk

it was a danger to ask you
should i go back when summer comes
perhaps hand that country my life
but at the end of a parade of syllables
yes there was stay
small joy of mine small speech sacré
sucré peachfruit verb
petite étoile from your throat

in the shadow of saint martin of tours
patron of beggars
& addicts & tailors & geese
i remember your stay
i remember

in morocco wondering how even
sharpness could be made to bear
rapture how does
mbarka wield kitchen blades
with such tenderness each iftar
her sliced nectarines like little suns
leaking light between chebakia & cumin eggs

does all rabat recall
i fast with her all week though i am bloody
she teaches me better embarrasses me with lunch
thinking poor girl from her poor christian country
does not even know the difference between alif and ayn
or how to say tampon in darija
or that this whole time she should eat

last month i found her recipe for tfaya
so dear & so long lost

like the signless path out
the medina the film of snails
on coastal rock or the method to flaying a thing
too sweet for wholeness

but the indivisibility
of stay its single minor note

how can i release it
fresh fig & memory
caught fish worthy of breath
un mot devenant un colosse

some weeks on the island sarah recommends madonna
some springs sarah on accident
hands me a book & its words are yours
i bring it to perissa touch volcano bury it in black sand
i take it to bed inside it i slip
the notebook where every afternoon sofia
selling dresses across the road pauses to teach me
the songs & bodies of the granite alphabet of greece

in too many places a sudden cathedral
that running faster i might have missed

i miss these
old homes
& their brevity & their waters’
smells & the uncommon graces
of the hearts they shelter & i miss
you who are here
you with whom i share this new city
& whose beloved is not me

to you i give this poem & beige & magnolia

roadside queen anne’s lace paths drunk with acorns
saint martin blooming off of knickerbocker’s gray branch
pedestrians here & there like a flurry of ants
i give you hours that drowse in the parks of several smaller cities
any one moment that is many moments any word that is a language
i give you everything but your stay this fall i keep your stay
its slanted light its scent of too-ripe apples  

Marissa Davis is a poet and translator from Paducah, Kentucky. Her poetry has appeared in Poetry, Poem-A-Day, Gulf Coast, Narrative, and Best New Poets, among others. Her translations are published in Massachusetts Review, New England Review, Mid-American Review, The Common, 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 the 2021 Narrative 30 Below Contest. Davis holds an MFA from New York University. Her website is

On Pleasure: “I’ve long had something of an obsession with seeking language for longing. I’m intrigued, perhaps, by the idea that it’s less a sentiment than a spectrum of sentiment, a many-shaded mingling of torment and joy. In this poem, it veers closer to the latter—becoming a sort of window through which appreciation of the many ways we can be—and have been—seen and cherished opens us to new understandings of care.”