Beneath your shoe soles there's a beautiful
concavity of sand, a symmetrical
funnel the width of a small boy's thumb.
It looks expertly smooth. Precarious
sand grains have been set to slide
whenever a plodding ant's insouciance
pitches it down that soft declivity.
The owner of the pit abides down there,
a drab predator the color of
quarry rock, old spackle, gypsum, slate;
earth-colored, with the shadows of the earth,
it snugs down in the hollow of its snare.
At night, in childhood, I would sometimes dream
of the panicky scrambles of a slipping ant,
its scurrying despair that swept it down
irresistibly along the volatile sand.
The way that dreams deceive you the ant fell,
and I, asleep, felt falling, too,
through filmy floorboards, into avalanche
as the heart-stopped terror of my helpless dream
tossed me to the soft mouth of the pit.
There, with bristling jaws, the antlion
wiggled out of ambush, rushed to hug
me, its frantic victim, in its grip. That,
too, had the horrible embrace of dream
where you choke those you love, or they choke you,
and everything takes place mechanically
despite the shrieked beseeching of your will.
Even in dream I couldn't follow down
to where the flinching victim had been tugged
beneath the dirt, and yet
the antlion's prompt return was even more
terrible for being miniature:
there's a proprietary fussiness,
meticulous, almost suburban, as
the little killer scrapes its whirlpool smooth.