Ants

By Joanie Mackowski b. 1963 Joanie Mackowski
Two wandering across the porcelain
Siberia, one alone on the window sill,

four across the ceiling's senseless field
of pale yellow, one negotiating folds

in a towel: tiny, bronze-colored, antennae
'strongly elbowed,' crawling over Antony

and Cleopatra, face down, unsurprised,
one dead in the mountainous bar of soap.

Sub-family Formicinae (a single
segment behind the thorax), the sickle

moons of their abdomens, one trapped in bubbles
(I soak in the tub); with no clear purpose

they come in by the baseboard, do not bite,
crush bloodless beneath a finger. Peterson's

calls them 'social creatures,' yet what grim
society: identical pilgrims,

seed-like, brittle, pausing on the path
only three seconds to touch another's

face, some hoisting the papery carcasses
of their dead in their jaws, which open and close

like the clasp of a necklace. 'Mating occurs
in flight'— what better way? Weightless, reckless

rapture: the winged queen and her mate, quantum
passion spiraling near the kumquat,

and then the queen sheds her wings, plants
the pearl-like larvae in their cribs of sand:

more anvil-headed, creeping attentions
to follow cracks in the tile, the lip of the tub,

and one starting across the mirror now, doubled.

Source: Poetry (April 2000).

 Joanie  Mackowski

Biography

Joanie Mackowski’s collections of poems are The Zoo (2002) and View from a Temporary Window (2010). She received a BA from Wesleyan University, was a Stegner Fellow in Poetry at Stanford University, and received a PhD from the University of Missouri. A professor at Cornell University, she has worked as a French translator, a journalist in the San Francisco Bay Area, and a juggler. She is the winner of the 2003 Kate Tufts . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Relationships, Pets

POET’S REGION U.S., New England

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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