The Ants at War

by Michael Odom (January 2019)


Ants, Mircea Constantinescu

The Colony Crosses a Stream


Ants build bridges from bodies; bolts of rigor

Mortis and half-drowning ant clasps.   

Like philosophies. Live souls walk on corpses

Over never-ending crisis,             

Paving impermanence with a host of either/ors,       

If/thens, ands, and first premises.                     

Rigid tenets. Antennae. Ants lose their grips,              

Break or drop from even ant dreams.                          

Which of the ants…? How could ants know which is  

The shore worth death, worth bridging seems

For need of is?



The Ants at War




Degrees to clouds,

Girded to sky and earth,

A human mound. Scaling the side:

One ant.





Reel in the wind,

Spindling, spindling

Air, like fear, like panicked blind canes:

Ant eyes.




Bach suite.

A din of points

Of harpsichord tapping

In the mite’s ear. The ants at war,





For you,

Larvae in tombs,

We have lived out ant lives,

Lived out life on the floor in dirt,






Like men through tires,

The ants work through the weave

Broad red, broad white, vast blueor stand

On stars.




One. One

Spun antenna

Tires in time and stops

Still and blind in shadow and space.

Ant. Earth.





Ant. The closed ranks

And larvae underneath

Have never known this chemical.






With no army.

Worker with no work.

Carpenter, no queen. Forager,

One ant.




Trit trits

Harpsichord runs

To beetles, timpani

To mites, stampeding ballet troupes,

Ant trails.




Wear ash.

Bite skin that’s bone.

Drag sinew from your teeth.

Heads walk nude on sticks in a row.

No grief.




One ant,

Mad with feelers,

Stands in the canopy

Of blades and flowers, alert,

And stopped.




One ant

From the tunnels,

From the body traffic

Of queen and ground, in the cyclone

Feels sky.




The flood

Comes down the hole.

And the goddess of bugs

Floats with her faithful foragers.

What’s hell?




The roads

Arc like gentle

Horizons, grades are hills,

Mountains are plains, drips of sweat, ponds.

Ants cross.






Michael Odom is an American poet and translator, the author of a collection of ekphrastic cinquains for children entitled Ick! Fran’s Tick!, a book of translation from Catalan, Count Arnau & Other Poems of Joan Maragall, and his own collection of poems playing on the rhythms & themes of Catullus, Selene.

Follow NER on Twitter @NERIconoclast

Back to Home Page


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

New English Review Press is a priceless cultural institution.
                              — Bruce Bawer

Order here or wherever books are sold.

The perfect gift for the history lover in your life. Order on Amazon US, Amazon UK or wherever books are sold.

Order on Amazon, Amazon UK, or wherever books are sold.

Order on Amazon, Amazon UK or wherever books are sold.

Order on Amazon or Amazon UK or wherever books are sold

Order at Amazon, Amazon UK, or wherever books are sold. 

Order at Amazon US, Amazon UK or wherever books are sold.

Available at Amazon US, Amazon UK or wherever books are sold.

Send this to a friend