What is Written

Marissa Davis


is body is leg is face is torso is script
scrawled in bark. is oak trunk nose. is back
to the cotton fields. back
to the kitchen
. is eye is iris is the iris’s
full petal lips. is their diffident curl.
is the river is the waist. is slutty. is the shoulder. is ugly.
is cumulonimbus. is the coils on the head
is a torrent scraping plains
is violence. is violent. is beauty. is the body. is a corn snake
peeking through the brush. is the shadow
of a fox on the bank of the creek. is the shadow
of the knee. is fat. is the creek. is welfare queen. is the leech
lurking in sludge. is that your sister
or your baby
? is the blood
gummed to its lips is the body. is angry.  
is the body is the body. 
is undesired. is the batting lash.
is Jezebel. is the weeping scar.  
is dusk. is cloud. is the moon-eaten lake. 
is the passive sheet of flesh. is a solstice night.




My poem plays with Audre Lorde’s idea of the mythical norm, especially as it relates to black womanhood – that is, that to be not white and not male is to be somehow “wrong” or “unnatural.” In linking the physical self with the natural world and interjecting common assumptions, restrictions, and stereotypes attached to (or, one could say, written on) the black female body, I aim to explore the psychological impact of such associations as well as to assert a counter-narrative of inherent dignity and beauty.

Marissa Davis is a writer from Paducah, Kentucky, as well as a recent graduate of Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee. Her poems and creative nonfiction prose have been published in Teen Ink, The Vanderbilt Review, Kindred Magazine, and The Magnolia Review. Besides being obsessed with poetry, she is a foreign language lover, self-professed travel junkie, and sporadic yogini.