“Ant Song” By Madeleine Trees

I.

The ant is so small that she cannot fall fast enough to reach a speed
            that would kill her.
Gravity acts in vain against her sectioned limbs. Imagine falling

for what seems like days, to an ant, and not being afraid.
            Knowing that
the shape of the air itself is designed to cushion you.

She would be above the world for a while. Maybe she would ponder
            her place in this enormity
but, more likely, she would be thinking about all that she needed

to get done when she reached the earth again. Imagine falling
            for so long
and just thinking about work, for what seems like days to an ant.

The impact would stun her for a moment. She would appear
            dead until, suddenly,
she stumbled upright and forgot about all of the falling, with so much to do.

II.

How tired must she be — this creature that can carry ten times
            her weight on a whim
and can travel hundreds of meters a day circuitously —

how tired must she be by the time she rests? And isn’t that terrifying,
            to think how much
she can do, before getting tired enough to stop? She puts

the moniker “cat-nap” to shame. She sleeps for only
   eight minutes every
twelve hours. Sometimes she will pause in her wanderings,

search the air with her antennae, her glistening shell
            catching the light like
a perfect pearl, giving the world enough time to wonder

what exactly she could be thinking about. Is she enjoying
            the birdsong? Looking on
with pride as her sisters march their united path? Not quite.

It’s called “motor planning.” She is thinking about what to do
            next. There is,
indeed, so much to do. Twelve hours, eight minutes, twelve hours.

III.

In what we call afternoons, or every few days, to an ant, she
            makes the journey
to the aphid colony. For her, it is a farm. For the aphid,

it is an act of benevolence. Its colony will be protected by
            this spindly gatekeeper,
its eggs moved dutifully deep into burrows for the winter.

In the spring, the ants will bring the eggs back out, and the next
            generation of aphids
will emerge and learn to love their great guardians.

The ant’s antenna whisper over the aphid’s belly, a touch
            designed to foster
a relationship, and in return, the aphid offers up its honeydew.

IV.

Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and
            be wise — a proverb
often uttered to tell lazy men to work, to take initiative. But perhaps

the ant fits better in the proverb of the virtuous woman, the poem
            sung at holidays
by Israelite men to celebrate their wives. Imagine resting at the

sugary aphid farm in the lazy warmth of the afternoon, motor planning,
   while everyone
around you sings your blessings for what seems like days, to an ant.

Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she smiles at the future.
Give her the product of her hands, and let her works praise her in the gates.


Madeleine Trees is a graduate student working and studying in Texas. She lives in an attic with one roommate: a gray cat named Eeyore. She plans to become an English professor. Her academic research areas are disability studies, women’s studies, and contemporary film. Her past publications include the short story Wet Dog and prose category winner A Place for Me. Her biggest poetic inspirations are human relationships, biology, and mythology. She loves rainy days, science fiction novels, and strong coffee.

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