The Battle of the Ants
Ross E. Lockhart



Friday - home from work

            There are ants in the kitchen

            Not one

                        Not two

            A trail.  A trail from the

                                                Sliding plywood door

                                                            Up the side of the cabinet

                                                            Into the…

                                                                        …Liquor cabinet

            Throw open the door

                        Reveal the grand feast

                                    Bottle of Kaluha covered

                                    By tiny black bodies

                        Goddamn it I yell grab the bottle

                                    And toss it into the sink

                                                Hot water on

                                                            Label peeling off

                                                I grab and soak a handful

                                                            Of paper towels

                                                Sweep up the trail,

                                                            Throw the black specked

                                                                        Towel into the trash

                                                I open the cabinet under the sink

                                                            I'm looking for poison

                                                                        But see none,

                                                                        Choose Simple Green over Windex

                                                                                    And renew my attack

                                                                                           Watching insects curl and twitch

                                                                                                With each spray of cleanser

                                                                        More paper towels

                                                                                    Decimating the trail

                                                                                            Broken legs and severed heads

                                                                                    In the wake of my sweep

                                                I look at the clock

                                                            Five o'clock - Time to pick up Jennifer

            I hide liquor bottles and opened food

                        In the refrigerator

                                    Away from tiny mouths

                                    Away from tiny soldiers

            I leave to get Jennifer.



                                    "We have ants -"

                                                "No!  Where are they?"

                                                            "The kitchen, we need traps or poison."

                                                "I don't want poison in the kitchen."

                        "We'll get traps -they take the poison back to the queen and feed it to her."

                        "What's that do?"

            "Kill the queen, the nest dies."


            We buy traps, we go home.

            There are twice as many now

                                                As before.  Jennifer freaks out.

                                                She smashes some

                                                            We step on them

                                                                        Sweep them up

                                                                                    With paper towels

                                                            Spray more Simple Green

                                                                        And lay down traps

            We go to bed, leaving the kitchen

                        To the ants,

                                    The traps to do their work

                        We go to sleep and dream

                                                            Of ants

                        I wake up in the middle night

                                    And look around, confused

                        The window starts shaking

                                    Then the walls

                                                Then the bed

                        What the hell are these damn ants doing?

                                                I think for a few seconds

                                                            Before realizing           


                                                Nothing too worrying

                                                            I look at Jennifer, asleep

                                                            Good thing, she'd be scared

                                                                        I hold her sleeping hand

                                                            Until the shaking stops

                                                Then I go back to sleep.


Saturday morning.

            Dead ants everywhere in the kitchen

                        Many live ones too

                                    We go through the ritual

                        Paper towels and Simple Green

                                    Clean away the fallen soldiers

                                                And living reconnaissance

                                                With the same sweep

                        As soon as we clear away the dead

                                    More wander from the cracks

                                                On the walls, the ceiling

                                    Jennifer and I retreat for the afternoon

            We return Saturday night

                        Begin the cleaning rite again

                                    Resume our holy war

                                                Against the ants

                                    Our genocide,

                                                Sweeping away the carnage

                                    "This isn't working, these traps suck!"

                                                "I could pick up a bug bomb or some spray."

                                                            "No!  No poison in the kitchen!"

                                                "Fine, we'll see if there are any fewer tomorrow."

                                    This time we spray Simple Green

                                                All over the floor and leave

                                                            Ants to die

                                                We go to bed

                                    I wake up mid-sleep

                                                Go out to the kitchen

                                                            And sit for an hour

                                                Watching the gravediggers

                                                            As they gather up the dead

                                                Many injured

                                                            Twitching, dying

                                                                        Covering our floor and counters


Sunday Morning.

            Arise, fewer ants today

                        Bodies still litter the kitchen

                                    We clean again, then leave the house

                                                Knowing that we are winning

                                                            The battle

                                                Outlasting the ants - I wonder

                                                            If the queen is dead.

            We get back Sunday night

                        There are a few stragglers

                                    Jennifer goes to watch TV

            I return to the battleground

                        Paper towels in hand I clean the kitchen

                                    An airstrike to rid my nation

                                                Of six-legged invaders

                                    The liquor cabinet is clean

                                                The cabinet on the oven's left

                                                Under the refrigerator

                                                I clean the walls,

                                                            The ceiling

                                                I pick up things to clean under

                                                            First a ceramic cylinder full of

                                                                        Spatulas and wooden spoons

                                                                        Wiping a few from the side

                                                            Next the empty fruit basket

                                                                        Make sure it is ant free

                                                            Finally, the block of knives

                                                                        I lift it in my left hand

                                                                        Wet paper towel in my right

                                                            SHE is underneath

                                                                        Three times the size of her minions

                                                                        Fat black body, sharp red head

                                                                        Mandibles snapping, forelegs thrashing

                                                                        Attended by her fiercest soldiers

                                                            I meet her gaze

                                                                        She challenges me

                                                                        I bring down my towel

                                                                        Crushing her, sweeping away

                                                                                                Her bodyguards

                                                                        Breaking her body

                                                            With mighty crushing power

                                                                        I imagine her scream

                                                                        I imagine the screams of her soldiers

                                                                        I tear through the monarchy

                                                                               Their banners fall

                                                                               Their flags burn and crash to the ground

                                                                                    Their drummers, pipers silenced

                                                            I have executed their queen

                                                                        I survey the battlefield

                                                            Done with my hands

                                                                        What the poison couldn't

                                                                        I toss the paper towels

                                                                        Into the garbage can

                                                And go off

                                                            To brag about my conquests

                                                                        To Jennifer,

                                                                                    My own queen.