Saturday, October 08, 2005


No one has attended more closely than I the unendable arguments of insects, the disputes of their assemblies, the debates of their swarms. No one has made a more painstaking or painful study--I have winced under stings, bites, scratches, scrapes, inhaled repellent gases, pinched caustic liquids, and trembled through strange fevers of their venomous devising--a more eager or anxious examination of their multifarious civilisation, collectively so vast as to be incomprehensible, despite the insects' individual minuteness. I, an amateur (if to love can be ascribed my terrified activity), have suspected and discovered truths to which the doctors and professors and technicians have been blind.

-- J.S. Roman, from "Entomic Deceits"

My blood, I have discovered, is attractive & tasty to the ants, & they will come far out of their way to have it. --Of other personal fluids they will take spittle, but with apparent reluctance. --These mornings I draw a little therefore, an eighth of an ounce or so, & using a sort of tiny aspergillum I sprinkle it on the floor near my table. Quickly the ants stream in from the other rooms in meandering progressions. As they swarm about the scattered drops their glee assumes a series of intricate patterns in continuous motion. These I closely observe, sketching rapidly with pencil & paper. When, having consumed the blood away, the ants evacuate the room, I translate my sketches into passages of appropriate symbols, using specially prepared grids. Several stages of decoding, according to formulae I have with great effort & ingenuity devised, reveal my poems.

What do the ants mean by their avidity? Merely hunger, & their craving suggests our own for supersubstantial nourishment. Their mindless frenzy creates its own vortex of beauty; an image of the inexorable (& voracious) universe. The means by which I translate this into words seem to me purer than any other yet conceived.

Of course I fear the ants; they know me too well by now; whereas I know next to nothing about them. (This is partly deliberate.) I do not even know exactly where they come from, where they assemble, to which nest they carry their daily spoils of my flesh.

-- J.S.R., from the "Nevertime Notebook"

Hungry for the blood of all that move,
hungry for the hidden sweets of flesh,
atoms solving round each point of love,
you weave the fraying world into this mesh
of tingling taut commotion that is God's
(or galaxy's) propulse to holy state:
the sling He shoots me sodden out of sod
to that ecstatic fire I cannot sate.
Your frenzy circling seconds sprung of chance
must teach me to be eager for delight
in every slip or start; your furious dance
my pattern, smarting, craving, to requite.
You wake me with your kisses red as thorns.
To lust, to stinging lust I am reborn.

-- J.S.R., "Sermon to the Ants"

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