Black Ants

a poem by Dan A. Cardoza

My usually disciplined thoughts escape to that day, and the high school biology class we shared.  One spring morning in particular, when the vapor of oleic acid burnt our nostrils with each inhale, exhale, the biting scent activating the worker ants into a kind of primordial alacrity, then into action not unlike the lock-step SS advance of chosen officers in Nazi Germany.   

First, they parade over the phenol shellacked lab table, down, then turn corner after corner, around after around, across the black and white tiled floor, up to the teal chipped window sill. At the peak of their climb, they pause, touch antennas, scurry, then as if new orders,  begin their repel, black obsidian specs down over the shiplap exterior wall of the classroom, to ground, then away. 

We follow one after the other. 

As we follow them, we strain our own small eyes to observe the Einheiten goose-step figures, in their shiny knee high boots, polished like mirrors, carry forward, off to the nearby woods. Their click, clacks, clip, tack steps, nearly audible. Then their minuscule, mechanical parts quicken, as they scurry away their weightless, dying and dead, making good use of their industrial period iron pinchers, mouths––Lilliputian warriors all. One by one, one behind one, they obey their chemical orders, march. 

The Black Ants continue their advance, absent dirge, melody––diction. Serpentine armies, so far away from the bustling thrum of the colony, and the classroom.  We then witness them jettison their mostly motionless comrades, into a growing mountain of onyx, translucent bones, thatched as if reading blueprints. Seemingly absent love, nostalgia, any worldly connotation of humanity.

Ruthless we muse. 

Bobby quietly mutters, “At least we have God.” 

I say, “They have a queen.”

We think our brief exchange, equivocation perhaps, but best reserved for the highest levels of philosophy, science, and religion. In any such discussion, we will not be heard or seen. Sometimes with smallness, being seen is of no matter. In the universe of the Black Ant, where thrice dark moons refuse to shine, we too float invisibly this day, beam dark light, in a singular landscape, aliens all.

Many years, many suns, many moons removed, I walk the crunchy gravel road at Winema Cemetery, in Northern California. It’s July and she knows it, strutting her brilliant blue dress, eternally thirsting affection. Winema is the Native American name for Chief. There are no chiefs buried here though. 

I can hear the intimate clear stream nearby, fat with Rainbow Trout, freshly washed from Whitney glacier, fastened to the North side of Mt. Shasta.  The flow serves as a natural divide between the graveyard & drowsy California Highway 99. The stream, river, join the sacred mountain to the ocean. Perhaps it’s in the contemplation of streams––divides that give meaning.  

I somehow enter that snowy, late December day, as a pallbearer, cold and stiff in my new black suit, just like the one we buried you in.  We are not much different this day, other than the warm box we placed you in so that we could feel more comfortable. 

This day in July, I reflect on a shivering winter boy, a noisy stream of rainbows, God and Queen. 

The End

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