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Mercury in Cancer

by Rage Hezekiah

Swallowtails hover
above bee balm—

I think ouroboros,
all in balance.

July again, warm
fade of days edging

toward September.
The woodchuck

unearths himself,
decimates our heirloom

tomatoes. I watch
a Brandywine

plump & ripen.
When I beckon

my wife to the vine
to show her

what we’ve grown
together, the creature’s

gnashed it open—
dark pink writhing

with earwigs. I’m
forever unpregnant.

Who could be fertile
in this time of loss?

I’m made to hate
my own wanting.

The slowness of working from my porch in the woods created space for this poem. Our garden is full of plants to attract pollinators, and I’m struck by the methodical way butterflies and hummingbirds move from flower to flower. As I watched a swallowtail dip its proboscis into each individual floret of our bee balm, I had a vague sense of the image of ouroboros, a snake swallowing its tail. I haven’t studied mythology, and I often find it intimidating in the context of poetry. This image’s ancient symbology was surprising to me, and I love the experience of being surprised by what comes to the page. Before the pandemic, I was so mired in the despair of my fertility journey that I was unable to write about it. The scale of suffering that has happened over the past year and a half has helped me find willingness to speak truth to my own experience. I don’t think this trivializes my struggles, but I needed a shift in consciousness to articulate my feelings.

Rage Hezekiah is a Cave Canem, MacDowell, and Ragdale fellow who earned her MFA from Emerson College. She is author of Unslakable, a 2018 Vella Chapbook Award Winner, and Stray Harbor. Her poems have appeared in The Academy of American Poets Poem-a-Day, ZYZZYVA, and The Cincinnati Review, as well as other journals. Her writing is featured in various anthologies including Other Tongues: Mixed Race Women Speak Out, All We Can Hold: poems of motherhood, and Nasty Women Poets: An Anthology of Subversive Verse.