Definition #312 Ants

Cover: The Roller Skating Ant

Cover: The Roller Skating Ant

Ants

by Daniel Hoffman

Theirs is a perfection of pure form.
Nobody but has his proper place and knows it.
Everything they do is functional.
Each foray in a zigzag line
Each prodigious lifting
Of thirty-two times their own weight
Each excavation into the earth’s core
Each erection
Of a crumbly parapetted tower —

None of these feats is a private pleasure,
None of them done
For the sake of the skill alone —

They’ve got a going concern down there,
A full egg-hatchery
A wet-nursery of aphids
A trained troop of maintenance engineers
Sanitation experts
A corps of hunters
And butchers
An army

A queen
Each
Is nothing without the others, each being a part
Of something greater than all of them put together
A purpose which none of them knows
Since each is only
The one thing that he does. There is
A true consistency
Toward which their actions tend.
The ants have bred and inbred to perfection.
The strains of their genes that survive survive.
Every possible contingency
Has been foreseen and written into the plan.

Nothing they do will be wrong.

“Ants” by Daniel Hoffman from Beyond Silence. © Louisiana State University Press, 2003. Reprinted with permission.

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