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.
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.
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.
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.
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,
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.