Types of Burns: Antigone in the Bluegrass by Marissa Davis

Black Lives Matter. We must all do what we can, one individual choice at a time, to dismantle white supremacy—in our selves, our relationships, our communities, and our institutions. Frontier stands in unrelenting support of the protestors demanding change—we send you every prayer, every bit of energy we have. Stay safe and stay healthy and stay bold.

Types of Burns is a space for Black voices who have something to say about this moment. This may be lyric essay, poetry, photography, etc. Submit your work here. We sincerely thank Marissa and every Black artist who has helped make Frontier what it is today. Today, we are publishing an urgent poem by Marissa Davis.


Antigone in the Bluegrass

“The body of David McAtee laid in the streets of Louisville, Kentucky,
for over 12 hours on Monday. McAtee had been killed by law
enforcement just after midnight on Sunday, May 31,
amid days of protests over police violence nationwide.
Noon the next day, protesters were gathered at the site.
McAtee’s body was still there.”
— Aída Chavez for The Intercept

& now each breath of me a bat          screeching
through the streets     hoping to echo off his body      to find
where my brother was left         for the new hard sun to blister         left
for the turkey vultures        rushing in heat from the western woods

& i am running towards water but where     is the river & where
are the gods & why      have they brought us here
ignoring the virtue of night

i loved him       can’t they see
that i loved him       he who fed
from the work of his hands
filled bellies with meat
pepper shocking so many lips like laughter

his face     a mirror of my own

but this brute land parches metaphor
there is no such thing as psalm
when my brother’s heart
lies slack in a garden of dust

no home     where our heads can rest
no bed       for hushed prophets

i am so tired of breaking       of trying
to seek beauty      or shape it        or trust
anything that claims this empire
worth more than its own ash      yes i too can be

bloodthirsty       clawing
for words that can strangle
a flag        bring a king
to my breast       leave him
begging for milk

how i would dance
when he starved

all my skin on fire     all my blood
wailing & my bones
so many aftershocks

i have woken up sobbing for how many centuries
hunting for the river’s edge
through smoke       but tell my brother

fear unravels its dominion
tugged down by the moon
of his name     tell him      in his name

i scrape off
their gospels of drought    & i will give him
to the tender dark waters
myself        if there is no law
that will bless his burial      no god
still listening

for the sweet of our family’s pulses     or to the wardrums
ringing in that gap

o come my cousins
let us batter their altars



Marissa Davis

Marissa Davis is a poet and translator from Paducah, Kentucky, residing in Brooklyn, New York. Her original poems have appeared in The Carolina Quarterly, Rattle, The Iowa Review, Sundog Lit, and Poem-A-Day, among other journals, and are forthcoming in Glass, Nimrod, and New South. Her translations are published in Ezra and forthcoming in Mid-American Review and Rhino. Her first chapbook, My Name & Other Languages I Am Learning How to Speak (Jai-Alai Books, 2020) was the winner of Cave Canem’s 2019 Toi Derricotte and Cornelius Eady Chapbook Prize. Davis is an MFA student at New York University.

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