Today's poem is by Paula Closson Buck

Elegy for My Novel

At first the ants come singly,
heads to the wall,
obedient like old sewing machines
in a back room in Piraeus.
They're an error
copied, a language dubbed.

Then they're socialists, the propaganda
of their own need. They post
invisible bills so by nighttime
they've smoked a trail down my wall.
A gang in black balaclavas
violates my bed. Or gods
in chitin drag: they try my pillow,
loll in the ephemera
of my lotions and oils, cart off
bits of skin for their reliquaries.

With a shoe or a book
I would stop their quotidian march,
but the work of ants
is to let you know how long
the story really is—that you'll fall asleep
not even halfway through.
After only a sentence or two,
after Once. That's why new waves of ants

emerge like second-graders
inventing the same old jokes:
forty thousand years of knock-knock
and Polacks we keep falling for
while the micro-hordes descend
from cracks above the door jambs.
Craven, they grow wings—
drop from the light fixture to the table

where I am laboring over
my novel. They work it
like a papery grave. Nubile as agents,
they flit and shift—it's a wonder
I didn't see them coming.
I'm not proud, but how I loved

the American innocent abroad.
She never wanted
the East German poet to die, even
when he set fire to the palace.

And old Dimitri,
and the woman who swam
halfway to Turkey in a dress
and one fin—they're surfacing
the way the bodies of friends
and loved ones turn up in wrong places—
on surgeons' tables, or in wooded areas
near the highway, tragic beyond
the call of any plot.

I never believed
in the promise of a New World, the Pilgrims,
never thought the founding fathers
loved me in their buckled shoes.
Maybe my heart was already breaking.

Now the ants are on my font—
all caught up in new wings
like the sussurous lips of children
pretending to read.

They're the Zen drone
of the lost self, they're Zem Zem
Shriners at the critics' parade,
troops on the rations of my failing

good will. And if I raise a fist to kill,
their touchy alphabet's already
leaving the page, like the fine line
between insane and inane,
histrionic and history.

Copyright © 2007 Paula Closson Buck All rights reserved
from The Laurel Review
Reprinted by Verse Daily® with permission

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