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

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