field notes on biology and culture

ties between ecology, disease, and anthropology

"Ants," by 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.