After and with Thoreau
Ants battled on my Walden woodpile,
Small reds against much larger blacks.
The wood was strewn with dying and dead:
Imperialist blacks and republican reds.
A red clamped on a black ant’s chest
Was shaken till a back leg broke.
I watched another red assault
The black ant’s back and gnaw his neck—
An Achilles avenging his Patroclus?
The black destroyed all the reds’ limbs,
Lopped off their heads and left with them.
Who won this internecine bellum?
Most warrior Myrmidons soon dead,
Ant squads claimed corpses, black and red.
by Ralph La Rosa, first appeared in New Verse News
Editor’s Note: Even the lovely alliteration in this poem can’t disguise the brutality of war.
Poet’s Note: This is meant to be a microcosm of Thoreau’s discussion in Walden, Chapter 12: “Brute Neighbors.”