Weeping Rock

dumque rogat, pro qua rogat, occidit. *
Ovid, Metamorphoses, VI. 301

Now Niobe can only watch
           as fat-breasted robins dress a nest above her head,

remembering the smear of red birth
           on her thighs. Punished

for banal maternal pride, having bragged over rosé
           to Latona

of the soccer practice & Spanish lessons
           filling their family evenings,

Niobe stands
           alone in her apartment, seven daughters &

seven sons lost, her
           husband a clumsy suicide. She

can only watch & hunger
           as the sugar cube city dissolves

around her, the still
           percolating coffee machine

mimicking her husband’s snore.
           As old girlfriend Latona’s children overcame

her own, boys then girls shredded
           limb from limb, Niobe’s lips moved

           for absolution, searching for a prayer

that might soften the minds
           of Apollo & Diana, but in her asking

those for whom she asked
           were felled.

* “and while asking she for whom she asked was killed” (my translation).

Annick MacAskill is the author of No Meeting Without Body (Gaspereau Press, 2018), longlisted for the Gerald Lampert Memorial Award and shortlisted for the JM Abraham Award, and Murmurations (Gaspereau Press, 2020). Her poems have appeared in journals and anthologies across Canada and abroad, including Arc, Canadian Notes & Queries, CanthiusThe Fiddlehead, GrainPlenitude, Room, The Stinging Fly, Versal and Best Canadian Poetry 2019. A settler of French and Scottish ancestry, she lives in Kjipuktuk (Halifax) on the traditional, ancestral and unceded territory of the Mi’kmaq. More: annickmacaskill.com