The Termitary

Prefiguring flight

Sitting on the back step
on a humid summer afternoon,
I am aware that work is going on
beneath the guinea grass
within ant-labyrinths and termitaries
whose rhythms never cease,
while on the surface broad green blades
splay in shady canopies,
feather-tips of lacy seed
stir in a sultry, fitful breeze.

The sky is overcast, the clouds
distended with a freight of rain.
Isoptera are calibrating
pressure, moisture, gravity.
Perhaps at dusk the signal drops
will fall to moisten earth for them;
nascent kings and queens will scale
the swaying stalks’ organic spires,
launched upon the cooling evening
as their nuptial wings dictate:
tiny spores, or cosmonauts
despatched to found new colonies.



Termite Queen

Having shed her wings,
the queen
basks in domesticity,
grotesque and pallid,
groomed by minions,
secreting chemicals
inducing a narcotic state:
their sole means
to populate.

Venus of Willensdorf’s
bulbous body,
cached in earth
like a termite goddess,
resembled this
royal isopteran,
torpid at the hub of their city.

Drudges seethe
with programmed activity,
serving continuity;
soldiers fend off the enemy;
the termite queen, blindly serene,
involuntarily reproduces,
unperturbed by monotony
or notions of identity.

Without her, life
could not be synchronised
in perfect harmony.




Here above ground is visual
chaos of grasses, rampant,
rank with midsummer; sepals
decaying in slime after rain,
alternately desiccating in sun;
while hidden from view
there is structure,
architecture of chambers,
granaries, galleries,
order of logical form
that might have elicited
le Corbusier’s awe,
van der Rohe’s respect
(less is more);
could have inspired
Gaudi’s envy.

I who live in a virtual mess,
a leafy slew of paper detritus,
study the termitary’s arcana,
bloated queen without workers,
soldiers, having dispensed
with king and progeny,
alone in a wooden cell
that teems with wraiths of memory,
harbours the tenuous
perfume of rain,
flight’s trajectory
searing through the brain
in lieu of long-lost wings…

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