Ode to the Virginia Opossum

by Sarah Ebba Hansen

Praise your strong back, nearly broken
with babies perched atop your spine,
aligned like children on a school bus,
their claws claiming every part of you.
For weeks and weeks, you are nothing
but mother. Praise the day they finally leave,
in search of taller trees or more generous dumpsters,
and you relish the lightness in your limbs,
the delight of eating a slug, alone,
opening a trash can lid, alone, your body agile
and untouched all summer long.

Praise your elaborate biology, your mate’s
two-pronged penis. When colonizers came to America,
they couldn’t fathom your anatomy, speculated
that perhaps you fucked with your nose,
unwilling to imagine your twin vaginas and uteri.
Some may look at you and see pest, see roadkill,
see a collection of frightening teeth, but the truth is,
your body is magic. Praise the tail, intelligent
as a fifth limb, and the blood cool enough
to ward off rabies. You are a method actor.
When threatened, you practice death as ritual.
Then, you grow life in the pocket of your flesh.
Each spring, you release the bodies in your body.
Praise how they join you, join us,
in this bright and pungent world.

Sarah Ebba Hansen is a writer from Virginia. She has received awards from the Academy of American Poets, Fulbright, and Nimrod International Journal. Sarah received her MFA in poetry from Virginia Tech, where she served as the managing editor of the minnesota review. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in 32 Poems and Nimrod and has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. You can find her online at https://www.sarahehansen.com/.