Even the Ant

/ /

is a spirit guide. Witness
the lives of the Hopi Ant People,
how they assisted human

survival of the fire
of the First World, the ice
of the second, quarrying

through subterranean Earth,
excavating panicled
chambers, sacred archetype

for the kiva. Diligence.
Collaboration. Accord.
Horace’s she-ant hoarder

of necessities, hardy
and industrious, heedful
of the clan, advantageous

recommendations for our
prodigious upright species.
Or Virgil’s stern battalions’

tenacity, swarming fields
for winter provisions, ranks
soldiering plunder homeward.

The ant world: dominated
and mobilized by females:
warriors, hunters, farmers,

nurses, workers, the fecund
queen controlling the whole show
while the males, flightworthy, all

huge eyes and genitalia
but small brained—the handiwork
of unfertilized eggs—do

little. If all goes well in
their nuptial flights they will
inseminate a virgin;

then die; sperm missiles, as one
well-known myrmecologist
calls them, exiled by sisters

from home. And those plucky
women!—the ones seen at work,
or war, or surveying land.

Camouflaged, timid, trap-jawed,
martial. Creeping. Scurrying.
Digging. Building underground

cities sound enough to last
decades, grain by earthy grain—
loosen, lift, haul, deposit—

for miles; tunneling steeply
as they can to the angle
of repose; the fine balance

between standing and collapse,
eloquent architecture
to house a tribe of millions

with nurseries for the young,
farms for food cultivation,
and dumps for trash or the dead—

travelling great distances,
fording streams, legs linked to jaws
in a writhing bridge, or massed

together like matted reeds
rafting harmlessly through floods,
bivouacking, foraging,

ambushing other communes
in slave raids, or slaves themselves,
stolen as pupae, hoodwinked

to believe that their captor’s
colony odor is theirs
when they emerge credulous

adults. Chemosensory
language for returning home,
tracking and trailing a meal,

transmitted through antennae
tapping, sweeping side to side,
interpreting the scent lines

of its house mates like echoed
infrasonic song. Evolved
from the solitary wasp,

now social, adaptable,
a biotic motherboard,
a superorganism

of innumerable bits,
each settlement of siblings
linking tarsi to survive.

Head, thorax, the abdomen.
We’d like to be just like them—
steady, sturdy, efficient—

and miss them for our boot-souls.
Little thing that runs the world,
Oh, Ant! scrambling over us.