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By Matthew Francis

After Robert Hooke

All afternoon a reddish trickle


out of the roots of the beech

 


and across the lawn,

a sort of  rust that shines and dances.


Close up, it proves to be ant,

 


each droplet a horned

traveler finicking its way round


the crooked geometry

 


of a grass forest.

A finger felled in their path rocks them,


amazed, back on their haunches.

 


I see them tasting

the air for subtle intelligence,


till one ventures to scale it,

 


and others follow.

They are fidgety subjects to draw.


If you sink the feet in glue

 


the rest twists and writhes;

kill one, the juices evaporate


in seconds, leaving only

 


the shriveled casing.

I dunked one in brandy. It struggled


till the air rose from its mouth

 


in pinprick bubbles.

I let it soak an hour, then dried it,


observed the spherical head,

 


the hairlike feelers,

the grinning vice of its sideways jaw,


the coppery armor plate

 


with its scattered spines.

Some draft stirred it then. It rose to all


its feet, and set off across

 


the rough miles of desk.

Notes:

The epigraph of this poem was originally omitted in the changeover to the new website. Because of this, reciting the epigraph is optional for the 2019-2020 Poetry Out Loud season.

Source: Poetry (October 2014)

  • Nature

Poet Bio

Matthew Francis
Matthew Francis is the author of four Faber and Faber poetry collections, most recently Muscovy (2013). He lives in West Wales, UK, and lectures in creative writing at Aberystwyth University. See More By This Poet

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