What led you down, first mother, from the good

dark of the canopy, and then beyond it?

What scarcity or new scent drew you out

that day into the vertical-hating flatness

of the bright veldt, alone, or too far from

the fringes of the group of other mothers

following the fathers out among the herds

and solitary grazers, the child clinging to your back

when the noiseless wing flash lifted him

away into the shocked light as the others ran?

Two million years ago, and yet what comes

to me, in time lapse through cascading chains

of changing bodies, is not the tiny skull

I’m holding, not the clawed out eye sockets,

his fractured jaw, but you, old mother, just then

in that Ur-moment of his being gone,

what I’ve felt too, on crowded streets, in malls,

if only briefly, in the instant when

the child beside me who was just there


before he is again, that shock, that panic,

that chemical echo of your screaming voice.


Between the kiddy park the town closed for repairs after recent

flooding and the new three story senior center, there’s a piss

poor wooded area in the bow of a runoff creek where teenagers

go at night to drink and smoke but during the day is always

empty. I can walk my dog off leash there and when he shits

I never have to clean it up. It’s hardly woods at all so much

as tall bushes, weeds, and a few dead trees swallowed up in

dead or dying vines, some thick as the trunks they’ve twisted

up and strangled, a stranded understory shrinking into itself

while the town goes on subdividing all around it in a meiosis

of cement, blacktop, concrete, steel, and glass. One time, I got

there early before rush hour. Sunlight passing level through a

prism of leaves broke into variegated greens I had no name

for. The air, it seemed, had come alive with green gradations

and degrees, a green kaleidoscope the sun had summoned, that

quivered with a chilly symbolism I could feel but not decipher. 

At my feet, across the emerald moss shell of a log disintegrated

nearly into dirt, a single ant was clambering into and out of

melded bands of darker and lighter green, over tufts of moss,

which when I looked closer I could see were woven of paler

tufts, and those tufts too of even paler and shorter ones, none

of which so much as bent under the ant as it went where it was

going, where it would get to, no matter what, as if it were the

ant articulation of the green shades moving over it as it moved

down the crumbling log into the weeds among the crushed

and rusted beer cans, shreds of cellophane, and dog shit. Little

hoplite genius of a place of unfathomable patience with all

time to accomplish what its tiny ant heart, if it had a heart, was

beating for.