Julie Hart

“They’re more human than we are.” — Gary Soto


Do we live to some purpose?
I will dispute this with you later, Gary.
But first: in Java, we go to Bogor’s botanical garden,
among the buttressed canopy trees
--so tall I can’t tell what their leaves look like--
I stand looking up, head thrown back upon my neck,
shifting position in hope of identifying the leaf in my hand.
I feel a slight nip, and then discover my unlaced boots
aswarm with brick red ants.
The nips continue, now on my ankles,
up under my loose muslin pants.
I see I have stepped in their highway
and are they pissed!
I jump away from the antic red stream
but the nips keep coming.
I hotfoot it back to the bench where you,
Gary, sit unconcerned.
They’re on me! They’re on me!
I yell as I run in circles around you.
I kick off my boots and right there in the gardens of Bogor,
I strip off my pants and slap at the ants
still clinging by their mouth parts to my socks.
Are they more human than we are?
I can’t believe you posited this as a statement, Gary.
I heartily distrust the anthropomorphic,
but this surely proves they are just as tribal.
Several of them died just to get me to step
away from their highway, something
I would have done eventually anyway.
Are ants impatient or merely programmatic?
All the rest of that day, both real and phantom nips
plague me. The whole acreage of my skin crawls
with the setae of tiny feet.
Ants resist ambiguity.
I resist purpose.

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