“Defining The Morna” by Jarita Davis

I want the violin strings that scrape along
this voice’s tremor to make an image
for you, a piney rosemary bush I can
run my palms up the sides of, offer
my cupped hands to your nose and mouth
to breathe its swoon from my damp skin

full and heavy and pleading to be held,
these images should have more water
like poems that come to me in the shower
and shake my footing loose from the tub
as I teeter and slip and hear my own voice
calling “please don’t—“ above the falling water

the night we left the shutters open
to the old rolling sea scraping back
the sand and chasing itself into the ocean
the salt waves’ voice sang the same,
but it was entirely new, you and I, lying
together in bed, lying too close to touch

I step from the shower, wipe the water
from my shoulders — there should be
more water—forgetting something, that poem
given to me before I caught myself
from falling, and stood upright again
under the warm slippery spray

this is the morna, a hymn to longing,
a lyric of faded illusions from a voice
forgotten in the wet, begging without
remembering why the scent of rosemary
leaves us faint and how a moment that waits
for dawn makes old serenades our own

Jarita DavisJarita Davis has a Ph.D. in creative writing from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette and was the writer in residence at the Nantucket Historical Association. She has received fellowships from the Mellon Mayes program, Cave Canem, Hedgebrook and the Provincetown Fine Arts Work Center. In addition, she was awarded a Woodrow Wilson Travel Research Grant, a Neiheisel Phi Beta Kappa Award and a grant from the Louisiana Division of the Arts. Her work has appeared in the Southwestern Review, Historic Nantucket, Cave Canem Anthologies, Crab Orchard Review, Plainsongs and Tuesday; An Art Project. Most recently her manuscript As if Returning Home was chosen by Yusef Komunyakaa as a finalist for the Cave Canem First Book Prize.