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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

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This poem originally appeared in the April 2000 issue of Poetry magazine

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