Monday, August 06, 2007

Ant lions and sperm

I have been dreaming about ant lions. I don't think I've ever seen one, but I've wondered about them a lot.

* * *

Here's a poem by Ann Townsend, from her chapbook The Braille Woods, published in 1997 when the Stanley Hanks Poetry Center still did their amazing chapbook series:

Night Watch in the Laboratory

The whipping fishtails beneath the microscope
were what you called me to see. A little package

of protein, you said, to describe the pure energy
unscrolling across the slide. One smear holds

a thousand beginning s spending themselves--
but see, you said, the ones who might always fail,

the double-headed, the lax, the crooked tails,
the inelastic ones, swimming in circles, their inner

compass gone wrong. They're like the goldfish
I bought once with the missing fin that swam

sideways, then not at all. But wait, you said.
Watch them all slow down. My eye pressed

to the rubbery gasket, the history of a generation
passed, like the dull ache I get in airports

of distant cities: so many bodies flinging themselves
onto the escalators and motorized walkways,

so many downing a last drink before the jetway,
the precarious wings lifting skyward.

In all their faces, a public blankness lets each
hustle through a crowd. Your sperm swam

and slowed, and, as the moments ticked by
on your watch, as you held me lightly,

I saw them grow less hungry, less helpless, turn to chalk.
And I lost my breath to watch your little death

as your fingers tightened around me,
and remembered the alkaline taste

on my tongue, sour, metallic, alive,
full of the fishy taste of you.

[photo: foggy quad, 9/18/06]

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