Vox Populi

A Public Sphere for Poetry, Politics, and Nature

Michael Simms: Antbed

Gavin's story

You may remember   my father
died when I was eight
my mother   closed up
the house      and we went to stay
with my grandmother for a few months
 
I wasn’t fully aware of my father’s death
I was quite happy that summer
aunts and uncles felt sorry for me
treated me kindly    I was given a puppy
the two of us roamed 
freely the country-side    
 
When my mother and I returned
to our house     and this 
is the point of my story
there was an antbed    one and a half
feet high     two feet wide
in the middle of our living room
 
The ants     who must have sensed
the house  was unoccupied
by humans    had carried the dirt
grain by grain from the yard
though the cracks between the floorboards
and across the thick-piled carpet
to build a spectacular pyramid
a temple to the puritanical gods
of organization and blind work
 
I got down on my knees
and watched a line of the black insects
struggling toward the city of their making
each worker carrying a tiny pebble
or a bit of food     a butterfly wing
or a breadcrumb    one little guy
was shoving a moth a hundred times
his size across the top
of the piles of carpet    a feat
I imagined      akin to a man
maneuvering   a downed Lear jet
across the top of a rainforest
 
Three inches away a line of workers
empty-handed so to speak
marched in the opposite direction
on a parallel highway    my admiration
for these civilized insects
was immense     their city must have taken 
ten generations to build
 
I imagined the intricate and sublime
architecture    labyrinthine passages
winding down to a golden chamber
where the giant queen sat
in her magnificent perpetual
pregnancy     attended
by telepathic nurses who knew
the shifting temperature of her moods
 
While I was roaming the fields
around my grandmother’s house     unaware
of time passing     an entire civilization
with poetry heroes and commerce
had risen in the shadow of our china-cabinet
 
My mother was less impressed
with the civilization that had sprung up
in our livingroom    she immediately called
an exterminator     I burst into tears
as white-suited men  shoveled away
the antbed    poisoning the inhabitants
I imagined the screams of the victims
as they watched their homes crumbling
their young dying
 
With the antbed cleared away
and the carpet restored to its original
sterility     I felt
my father’s death for the first time
he would not be coming through the door
with a baseball glove or an atlas
as a gift to make up for his absence
 
He would not be sitting in his easy chair
reading the newspaper    asking my opinion
on world events     considering
my answers carefully    he was not
in the garage fixing the toaster-oven
or in the yard pruning the apple tree
or in the kitchen gently teasing my mother
out of her anger     I would not ever again     
be visiting him in the hospital
 
On Saturday we brought flowers
to his grave     and I tried
with all my inconsequential strength
to straighten the gravestone which always
seemed to lean toward the north
into the wind and storm and snow

Copyright 2019 Michael Simms

6 comments on “Michael Simms: Antbed

  1. brendabutkagmailcom
    November 19, 2019

    beautiful.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Arlene Weiner
    November 17, 2019

    Stunning poem.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Sarah Gordon
    November 17, 2019

    Lovely one, Mike.

    Liked by 1 person

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