Ant Farm, Ohio

Barn and church, bridge, windmill with its vane,
stunted maples, the silhouette stark

as a family farm, in a black and white movie, just before
the tornado, one sister reaching the cellar
and one sister not—

But here,
only a small drizzle sets in as we open the bubble wrap

around a slender vial of ants, settlers
we must stow overnight in our icebox
to slow them down, to be docile

as with the metal tweezers we clutch each thorax
and poke the scrambling pioneer down

into its black entrance. Soon,

they are digging, our son
sings the marching song.     The tunnels

go out in all directions, roads
finding the easy way.

But how can I not write
about death?

Each day the community brings to the surface
a crumpled little gift.     A tangle of legs builds up

to become the city dump.     Too much food
or too little, the sand now looking like the cracks and smears

on a deer hide
after a hard winter

when the knees finally collapse.

Out to the east of Olney, Illinois, a farmer's root cellar—
two catacombs dug

into a creek's ravine—became the crypt

for his two children
dead of diphtheria, black fire and ash

clogging up their lungs. He laid them in there, each
in their own little tube

till the spring thaw, till the ground he farmed more
than he ever talked to his wife

would open to receive them, little boy and girl
who also played with ants, their skinny waists, kneeling in the grass,

how they pictured the dark nest
blooming beneath their home. I died with them

every time I heard their story.
And now

back here in Ant Farm, Ohio,
our son can't wait to tell us

of the latest one he finds, a black puckered thing
blocking the tunnel

toward the main square of the town. Which way
will they take him,
he says.

Will the ones who touch him
also start to die?

Daniel Bourne's books of poetry include The Household Gods and Where No One Spoke the Language. His poems have appeared in Field, Ploughshares, American Poetry Review, Boulevard, Guernica, Salmagundi, Shenandoah, Prairie Schooner, Indiana Review, Plume, and others. He teaches in English and Environmental Studies at The College of Wooster in NE Ohio, where he is the editor of Artful Dodge. Since 1980 he has also lived several times in Poland, including 1985-87 on a Fulbright for the translation of younger Polish poets. This Fall he is in fact back in Poland, living in Gdansk on the Baltic Coast for more work with Polish poets on the translation of their work. (www.danielbourneblog.wordpress.com)

Boxcar Poetry Review - ISSN 1931-1761