Self-Portrait as Persephone

Marissa Davis

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
toward 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