The Reckoning

April 18, 2015

I descend wooden steps paved with sunlight;
a pulled switch licks cold metal with a spark,
but the light bulb flickers and dies.
I shield my face from the glowing doorway above
until the dark unveils its landmarks.
I crunch across gritted cement,
fingers glide through tufts of dust
and slide over abrasive rust.

In the centre of the room, I stop
and watch pinpricks of light
dance in spinning constellations.
For this is the place of reckoning
where all males must give account,
and so I stand to face the ghosts
of every ant I killed as a child.

Hung in the air, a swarm of defeated soldiers:
those scorched by the lens;
those drowned in the boiling flood;
those trodden underfoot.
They hold aloft spilling manuscripts
of disputed ant philosophy,
while others mutter through
unfulfilled insect prophecy,
but the only word that finds echo is ‘Why?’

And the honesty that slips my tongue,
‘I never realised,’
must have stung more than the war cry
of hornets and bees.
Their collective glow dims
and they drift back into the wood
with only themselves to carry off.

I too turn for fear of being stood
facing just one alone.
In the kitchen, a living ant finds itself
within the kettle’s chrome.
Driven back by the hellish heat within,
a cool breath ushers them homeward.
And I find my own globed face
Staring back in opposition
But I can no longer make out
that boy from long ago
nor the image of God
that some say made him.

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