Fable of the Ant and the Word

By Mary Barnard 1909–2001 Mary Barnard
Ink-black, but moving independently   
across the black and white parquet of print,   
the ant cancels the author out. The page,   
translated to itself, bears hair-like legs   
disturbing the fine hairs of its fiber.
These are the feet of summer, pillaging meaning,   
destroying Alexandria. Sunlight is silence   
laying waste all languages, until, thinly,   
the fictional dialogue begins again:   
the page goes on telling another story.

Mary Barnard, “Fable of the Ant and the Word” from Collected Poems (Portland: Breitenbush, 1979). Used by permission of the Estate of Mary Barnard.

Source: Poetry (February 1944).


This poem originally appeared in the February 1944 issue of Poetry magazine

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February 1944
 Mary  Barnard


Mary Barnard was born in Vancouver, Washington and attended Reed College where she received her bachelor’s degree in 1932. Her works include A Few Poems (1952), The Mythmakers (1966), Three Fables (1975) and Nantucket Genesis: The Tale of My Tribe (1988). She was awarded Poetry Magazine’s Levinson Award in 1935, the Elliston award for her book Collected Poems (1979), the Western States Book Award in 1986 for her book Time and . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Nature, Arts & Sciences, Summer, Reading & Books, Animals

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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