What Ants Know

There are ants that tend to their injured
by licking their wounds,
slowly transferring their own health
into fallen soldiers,
sealing fresh lesions against lethal bacteria.
Who can say why a creature as small as an ant
with so many hardy brethren,
would bother to stop—an hour if need be—
and help a troop.
In that tiny helmet of a head
are there neurons of compassion, of pity,
or are these ministrations automatic, instinct,
like the urge to tunnel or serve a queen
(what is instinct anyway
but a word for what we can’t explain?).
Some ants will even evac a battered brother,
not the terminal—those who have lost too many limbs
to the brutal jaws of termites—
but the ones who, with proper attention,
may fight another day.
The medics sense the difference
and do what they can
before moving farther afield,
gifted with the knowing
there is not a moment to spare.

Published by

Jean Ryan

Jean Ryan, a native Vermonter, lives in Lillian, Alabama. Her stories and essays have appeared in a variety of journals and anthologies. She has also published a novel, LOST SISTER. Her short story collections, SURVIVAL SKILLS and LOVERS AND LONERS, are available online. STRANGE COMPANY, a collection of short nature essays, is available in paperback as well as digital and audio editions.

2 thoughts on “What Ants Know

  1. First, I have to wholeheartedly applaud your take on the tight pant epidemic of today’s ladies. Often times while sitting in the carline at my sons’ schools, the over abundance of ill fitting active wear can be quite astounding. * That being said, I must admit I too have yoga pants sprinkled in my wardrobep. I can only give account of my lifestyle and coming from a working, mother of three, in her mid thirties, my day begins at six a.m. Following the excitement of getting the young ones off and running, work starts. Bill paying, groceries, school pick up, some school activity(or two), PTA, dinner, laundry, and keep in mind please, that as parents of today’s youth we are having to attend play dates, private lessons, sports and leisure activities WITH our children. The days of letting your children do anything alone or at best with out our constant presence is long gone! Women we are under continual scrutiny of how well we complete these tasks and good we look doing them! (Cannot forget political correctness and a smile MUST BE maintained through the day!) So…Somewhere between falling over and dropping dead the only thing “holding it all in” are yoga pants! I kid, but honestly they’re a mindless choice in the lives of busy ladies that are oftentimes just lucky that the socks match and shoes are on the right feet!

    1. Thank you for your thoughts on this. I applaud your efforts to keep it all together. Having no children myself, my perspective is different. I admire all those who approach motherhood with love and commitment.

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