Ant swarm

This is a poem that I wrote last November, and it appeared in the webzine Open Writing ( as Opportunities in Panama.  However I recently workshopped it with an group of excellent Suffolk Poets under the leadership of Judy Gahagan, and several (not all) of their comments have been taken into account in this version.  One comment made was that the first stanza made the reader work too hard, – well I like that so haven’t changed it, but I have given a lead in with the new title.

Ants swarming

The livid red-brown flow courses right to left
across the muddy trail in Soberania rainforest.
A stream of identical phenotypes,
following pheromones, as if newly blind.
Workers unburdened of their brief life’s work,
six abreast with thousands close behind,
abandoning old structures on chemical orders.

The Leaf Cutter Ants swarm through foliage
each flank guarded by larger sister soldiers
attacking all that impedes the silent rampage.
This hustling surge stirs our expectation
of the chance to be spectators of predation.
Hungry lenses rake the dripping dim foliage
alert for lurking opportunist’s action.

Entrepreneurial Ant Birds initiate the plunder:
a fast strike by Barred and Slaty Antshrikes
as the furtive Black-Crowned Antpitta skulks
beneath the Ant-Tanager’s bitter scolding.
Ocellated Antbirds have varied their attack plan,
in blue masks they surf the swarm’s front,
to select and snatch their larger prey insects,
which scuttle to evade the advancing mass.

We watch the birds’ frantic sorties.
Like City bankers, far from the turmoil,
we view the action with detachment,
observing in each new encroachment
the serious business of survival.

Ocellated Ant Bird


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