The Ants

They come up through the cracks
in the concrete underneath
the swing seat
where time moves back and forth
between the present and the past.
They are tiny but determined
and they climb
inside my shoes and up
above the socks, with one for every
old regret: a mother-ant, a father-
ant, an ant for unintended
consequences, and one
for the path not taken. There’s not
enough cinnamon
to keep them away
and salt doesn’t take back its words.
They sting now
like so many things I said, they said, we
said. Turn on the hose –
they won’t stay away; they’ve acclimatized
themselves to diatomaceous earth,
and even the flicker
on the grass can’t eat all
my sorrows. No ceremony with cornmeal
or scattering of coffee grounds
brings peace of mind. The ants just keep
on marching through
each barrier placed
before them, and goad me
into trying chalk or peppermint
to hold them at bay. When they appear
to be gone, there’s still one
holding to a seam or a fold
by its tarsal claws
feeling no guilt for the hurt
it induces, just trying to survive
as one among millions.

David Chorlton lives in Phoenix and enjoys a view of the desert mountain that occupies its space surrounded by the city. He has had an unusual year in which watching the local wildlife has been a help in his recovery. Read other articles by David.