Tuesday, April 5, 2011


What is your true nature, it asks me,
Part lover, part Zen teacher,
slapping the back of my hand
Til I awaken
You want mountain? Easy--
Sling me across the landscape
like the body of a voluptuous
sleeping grandmother
a voluptuous, sleeping
or a river
calling one fickle moment after next--
go on, just try to step into me twice

I could claim my calm pool and my drop
rapids and my many many eddies
But that’s too easy
because really what lies at the bottom
of each breath

is the line of ants doing the bunny-hop
along the edge of my bathtub,
and you know what we are all asking,
what you are already thinking—

Why do ants carry their dead?

this tiny army of pumped-up amazons
hoist their fallen sisters onto their backs
and carry this mystery with each body,
as they spill into the hole at the edge of the caulking

..they carry them back and devour them to absorb their memories

...they are delivered to the great ant graveyard
and laid to rest where their sisters,
like weeping elephants, will visit
season after season, to graze their antennae
against the beloved and hollow exoskeletons

..that when they tap each other as they pass
on opposite commutes, they’re playing
an endless game of telephone,
so when the deceased are dismantled
like old motherboards
the punchline data is finally retrieved,
the fruit of a million messages
passed a million times.

I sit for 20 days in silence,
every moment a wrestling match
with god, and a hope
to emerge with my life purpose,
or at least a better sense of humor.
Instead, I emerge from the cave
with only this:
and the oracle I consult
heaves up a thousand pages of Darwin
and a thousand more, asking the same question

I know the answer is there, but I prefer,
I think, to end my days not knowing,
but imagining,

every time I ask, that long line
of the humble and mighty sisters
carries me back to the colony
where everything,
sublime and grotesque,
is happening at once


  1. I appreciate the way this poem dishes up surprises from mountains to voluptuous grandmothers to ants - then, "Why do ants carry their dead?" and all leading up to the question of life's ultimate meaning. I also appreciate it's simplicity of language and imagery, that I don't have to struggle too hard to grasp it.