BY EMMALEA RUSSO
In the beginning, there was water. Some say it came from space, others say it was always here, waiting for us like a bed. One winter long ago, I made weekly visits to an institution in rural Pennsylvania. I had always known that life was circular but I hadn’t, until then, known a circle made only of varying shapes of pain. I was mostly healthy. Winter was making a shell and I knew the ice scraper would soon be part of my daily. The stray cats were arriving in droves and they trailed behind my lover when he’d eat mushrooms and roam.
I am talking about the part of Pennsylvania rich with hex signs, the part that’s forever imbued with my preverbal love for the witchy, the symbolic, the wild. The sign of Cancer is moon-ruled and spins you around until you land in the space from whence you came. A womb. A zero. An opening unto. An opening into. A tunnel from. You’ve always known the Cancerian parts, perhaps too well to have ever said hello. Cancer gathers up what Gemini dispersed, prepares us for the creative drama of the lioness which follows her. As the first water sign in the zodiac, I’m talking about the personal beginnings of this most emotional element.
In the beginning, there was water and the water was amniotic. Amniotic fluid contains our collective histories, our one intuition.
In my early twenties, I moved to Louisiana to live with a kind stranger after fleeing the man whom all the cats trailed. All I knew of the south were miniature mossy oak trees on my phone screen and it seemed cavernous enough to burrow in damp fauna.
The Cancerian waters are both beyond verbal and pre-verbal. Writing about the season of the crab is a slippery endeavor, one that I must take on while seated at my kitchen table, sun-shielded and remote. The tarot cards are on the table and the dog sleeps belly-up on the couch. Call it an aura. Call it a feeling. Where do you feel it in your body? Cancer asks.
Louisiana turned amniotic as I flipped and turned and learned, again, how to exist as an entity made of water. A river-shaped lake slithered through our backyard and I jumped in, the stranger by my side. We were naked and met by a snake. At night, we slept next to the hot sludge of skinny river. I still wondered about the water up north, which, when I left, was just beginning to thaw. Ice is emotion concretized, the shell of the crab that is Cancer incarnate. I wrote about Louisiana after I moved to Brooklyn, having left the stranger at the water.
Cancer season commenced as the sun reached its brightest in the northern hemisphere. I now live at the beach, where three autumns ago, I stepped out onto the dewy and desolate boardwalk and as if on cue, a humpback whale jumped out of the water and hung suspended in the air. I gasped. What else was I going to do? The whale answered a question I didn’t know I had posed.
The triumphant and airborne whale got birthed of some underwater world, one I was now living near, one I had access to but could never really have access to. I followed that whale. I ran south and each time she breached, I gasped again. Babies know how to swim when they land earth-side and the Cancerian energy is similarly amphibious, a remembering of what happened before. Way before.
Cancer season spins you around gently in the whirlpool and spits you out in your place of origin. This morning when I woke near the end of the season, full-sun pouring onto my bed, every bed I’d ever slept in arrived in my head. They overlapped to form one giant bed made of white linens and greys, crumpled sheets and fresh. It was also the dreams of and within beds, the ideas of beds, the original bed from which all other beds spring. It was catastrophic. I went back to sleep.
If we’re talking about art, Cancer is the roots of the situation. It’s why the soul (insert here the universe, God, higher self, etc.) wants to make something tangible in the world. It’s the first water. How does one write about the first? There is no precedent. Language fails, flails, gets waterlogged, and drowns. An intuitive hit, as the mystics say, a psychic download, a remembering, a feeling. An embodied thought. To speak Cancerian, we have to feel the way a word exists in our throats and bellies, our eyelids and ears, to feel its extraverbal vibrations in our wombs.
If we want to know the origin of Cancer season, the roots of the beginnings of water, let’s look to the origins of the word bed. It’s a tangled web of garden plots, conjugal unions, sleeping quarters, and graves. The beginning is the end is the beginning again. Cancer reminds us, like the snake in the bayou eating its tail, that time is circular. List every bed on which you’ve ever rested. After you’ve listed them, become them.
Cancer season wants us to go back to school for intuition, to revisit the roots of our natal karma, thirsty and far reaching and personal. Cancer is what’s below the earth and what smashes into the earth for the sake of water, for the beginnings of life. Site your sources, look back from whence you came, a superimposition of supernatural beds, all of them, on which you’ve slept and dreamed and woke and yoked.
New Jersey, 2017.
Emmalea Russo’s books are G (Futurepoem) and Wave Archive (Book*hug). She has been an artist in residence at the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council and the 18th Street Arts Center, and a visiting artist at The Art Academy of Cincinnati and Parsons School of Design. She has shown or presented her work at The Queens Museum, BUSHEL, Poets House, Flying Object, and The Boiler. She is a practicing astrologer and sees clients, writes, and podcasts on astrology and art at The Avant-Galaxy.