Ants

This is the earth before

anyone laughed.

This is the persistent prehistoric

republic rising up along the wall,

escaping the rising groundwater trying

not to drown.

 

And in drought,

theirs are the hunters,

far from safety, groping

toward the still-moist sponge.

 

I marvel at their stubborn

multitude around

the stillborn robin’s chick but

I will not applaud them.

Here they are,

 

their long queue busy

all the way to the stored

Christmas candy under the bed.

Here is a solitary soldier

looking too small to have a pulse.

He feels his way, he feels his way across

the lighted sink top, so sure and even more sure—

he is so continual with the searching,

molecule-tipped limbs that

 

I lift my hand

and can’t. I can’t let the brute

palm fall as the illumination of the kitchen

and the daylight progress under

his intricate shadow and he stays in

one place, groping

as beneath him crawls the world.

—Michael Cadnum

Published in the 2012-11-23 issue: 
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Michael Cadnum has published nearly forty books, including the National Book Award Finalist novel The Book of the Lion. His most recent book of poetry, Kingdom, includes many poems that first appeared in Commonweal. He is working on a new book of poems, The Promised Rain. He lives in Albany, California.

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