Gardening

 

In a place in the yard where nothing grows,

I lift the brick that's nothing's cornerstone

and unearth swarms of living dirt

 

passing what I thought was a moth

between them rip by rip, but it

was not, I came to see, a shared food;

 

it was their eggs. I found a nail and a hinge

in the mud, but no

gate. I found a hasp and a shell

 

and a slat. Not

feasting; reproducing. Not this;

that. Not division;

 

multiplication.

Not the catch; the hatch. 

Ants blast downward

 

with the auger of cooperation

right through the single footstep

stamped like the sole

 

sole that so chilled Crusoe

it might as well have been cloven

by one brick

 

in the bed, joined by no others

in wall, path, stairway, or border,

first or last already or still

 

in formation, so

infested, so violently

solo, it must be the monumental

 

cold downed head of the framer

of some dull

concept, some pyramid

 

scheme, vacant slab-faced

antique statuary

whose squirming visage

 

faces the muck.

Worker ants craze the subterranean

emergency entrance whose surface name

 

is exit. Stampede, where units

are larger; trampling is the crisis

those of us with soft bodies

 

fear dismounting a slow escalator

that nevertheless outpaces

the interval between arriving

 

and arrival; one foot

on the grinder, one foot on

the landing, like being delivered   

 

into my own body. Knowledge

and terror. Wake up, commuter,

your bottled water is throwing  

 

beautiful spiteful rainbows all along the corridor.

Their bobbing is my radiance  

and I can see forever, the crowds

 

and carnage of which no one

has gotten right save one location scout

who saw a day-lit mall where,

 

sadly patient, pressing a security gate

sacred as a choir screen,

bored, rotting, underpaid

 

supernumeraries

groan at the principals.

What's more revolting?

 

the informed runnel of carpenter ants

that erupted through a crack in my porch

to surround a living snail—they entered the shell  

 

and took the spiral from within like

dutiful tourists up a spire; reformation

whitewashed twists lit by an unseen source; the

 

narrowness of passage; and imperceptible

to me, though I listened, the swoosh

of advancing ants already climbing

 

a staircase to the interior that the

snail no doubt sensed, if couldn't

hear. I saw its alien horns strain to

 

understand, like the ears of a dog—which—

watch my hands—lead me to

your second choice: wolf snail ravaging

 

common tree snail, shell and all.

There exists in nature

a wolf-kind of every species

 

whose criminal hunger takes the shape of

the most vile courtship; in this case,

the wolf slogs the viscid ectoplasm

 

of its victim; to watch it, it looks like

horrible walking, but

its lips are so elongated they are nearly

 

an appendage and it's eating

the contrail of the other snail even

as it's hunting it. Slow or fast, I can't say.

 

Pursuit staged by Patience

in revenge of the abduction of her child

by Time and Silence. I watched footage

 

of a wolf snail on a tree

snail on a muted big screen TV

and thought they

 

must be mating until one just

disappeared entirely. There's a shill

and a shell and a shell man, sleight of hand,

 

a mark, and tremendous morose

marksmen from another scale, as among

us some have come from another time. The

 

simultaneity

sickens me.  The overlaps. Wolf snail rewinding

common snail up its trembling spool,

 

the wheeling

of the welk

inside the welk.

 

The wave rolling

and the root we share below

the house. The wheel inside the

 

wheel inside the meal inside the meal of

our first date—snails you dared me with shame

of worldlessness to eat, but there was a third there—

 

a game statistician who's

since left a tenuous post

to enter the system. I eat nails now,  

 

so acute is my deficiency for iron

and men. I eat soil. I put on

my gauntlets and plod out

 

with rake and hoe to work the beds,

but this garden has been working me.

It took me on the long con. Who

 

am I, a tourist,

to buy here. Was it so long ago

I took the steep enclosed spiral

 

staircase up the tower

in the walled medieval stronghold

and turned into

 

the occlusion. Levitation

is the name gravity takes

when the hourglass

 

is upside down,

but the hourglass

never is. Up and down

 

the corkscrew

go the angels in Jacob's vision.

Cheap revue

 

that plays in competition with

a cash-cum-slot machine

in the black box

 

lounge of the casino. Know

I am with you, Jacob heard God

whisper, and will keep you

 

 wherever you go, and will bring you

back to this land

 for I will not leave you

 

until I have done

to you

what I have promised

 

to do.

Tourism

is the oldest industry;

 

dreaming is the oldest

tour. Every pilgrim has his scallop shell

to show for his. I live

 

in mine. Of the convergence

of the channel patterns carved

in calcium crystal, dry tributaries

 

that flow the half-shell to a single point,

I was told: Rejoice. You Are Not Alone, Pilgrim,

Even The Sea Maps Our Reunion On

 

The Very Shells It Scatters, but what

momentum

—look how the lines meet at broken

 

swinging muscle—

what horde pushed so

the hinge at the symbolic

 

intersection

of these symbolic lines in shell

the symbolic dead pilgrims followed

 

to their next symbolic lives

but which map just as well

the tendency of wolves

 

to merge packs; right now

deep in a Russian village

where they live on snow and horses,

 

wolves are coalescing.

I once stood by myself

in the ancient tragic scallop shell

 

shaped theater at Ephesus and saw

the flights of empty stairs

rush the stage.

 

The inverse

of a shooting star,

what I watched

 

was increments.

When my son dreams

the wolf snail

 

whose grave turning

has the clarity

of his grave purity

 

how can I tell him

it was just a dream?

I taught him

 

how to sleep

by putting him down

alone awake.

 

I taught him how

to count by starting with sheep

and staying there until

 

consciousness

altered the word.

A herd

 

eyes the narrowness

of the stile

from a great distance

 

but unbearable

supercolonies of ants  

are not contiguous

 

in the human sense.

They are practical though, and kick

up a layer of clay we form brick with

 

from the middle of the earth

where they are retreating in panic

with the eggs I saw them rolling

 

in their shining mandible

face hooks. And I dropped

the brick.

 


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