Termite Queen

by Fiona Benson

Down in the boiler room
this ikon, this body-locked Queen,
trapped in her labours and suffering,
her milky birth canal
plunging and bucking,
oozing and erupting,
pulsing eggs,
whilst her little-girl head
and six legs dangle,
the way the hands
of the morbidly obese
hang so small and impotent,
her tiny, useless feet.

She’s grown too large for the tunnels
and even should the red ants come
she could not leave this urgent dungeon.
Her mate strokes her back
and scurries across her glistening abdomen
to enter the glans again and again –
pheromone-head, all he wants to do
is heavy-pet or fuck.
Workers feed her at the mouth
and excavate the room
to accommodate her girth;
when she dies
they will lick her up.

Beyond her in the city
her eggs are hatching in the nurseries,
her workers are tending to gardens and barns,
and hundreds of floors up
the cooling tower breathes
blue, unchambered air –
which the Queen flew through
in that first strange dream of thermals
she navigated lightly, easily,
back in the termite storm
when they all had wings,
when they all unlatched them prettily
and burrowed down.