Lines Writ Because I Desperately Needed Something To Bring To Del’s Poem Swap On Sunday
(or: Thank God For Beer-and-Spicy-Pizza-Rolls® Dreams)
Anna’s in Namibia again,
stepping lightly over brittle crusts of ground
so not to fall into the tunnels dug
by legions of gigantic ants.
To speak of which, her neighbour’s vanished.
Anna joins the search and sweeps
her turn-of-Twentieth-Century gown
across the hills dried gold with the blaze
of endless Namibian sun and skies.
It’s terribly Willa Cather, really,
if Willa’s style was one
of ant-dread and other hemispheres.
Down south African hills she cascades,
blue-plaid gown quite Dorothy Gale –
no, we’ll keep with Cather –
chunky boots of pioneer heel
crisping into the crunchy grass that’s
dead and gold as Minos’ heart.
The heat is searing, the skydome stirring.
Her nearest neighbour is far away,
lost behind some other swath of yellow scrub,
calling a name, the missing’s own,
the voice a yelp, near-unheard
as Anna’s ears are filled instead
with whispers of Namibian wind,
superheated and hardly moving.
Anna stops, pulls wisps of blond
(wheat, or corn, to match the withered grass)
which naturally fall into her face
with cinematic (Hepburn - no, literary! Cather!) swirl
as Anna’s eyes squint gracefully,
accustomed as they are after
long years’ dance with the sun.
O Anna! O pioneer (I Cather you are)! –
to quote The Cramps (who Willa never heard),
how far can too far go?
Beyond your fellow homesteaders’ sight,
down the slope of collapsing gold,
your boot sends a dry spur of dirt
down a hole in the earth to your right.
The echoes of crumble sound like a voice.
You peer up the hill, and then look down
across the expanse of pockmarked ground.
You’re above the tunnels, among the mounds.
The ants’ grand nests are trenched for miles
beneath the valley between the hills.
The drought-dried ground has shrunk; the earth’s
grown frail, the ant-tunnels wide:
each bootfoot step could crash one down
to labyrinth and clicking pinch,
a venomous swarm to call one’s own.
Two faint calls: one cried in search, one
in deep fear, neither face in view, in reach;
both hardly heard for wind and crinkle
of crunching ground.
Anna freezes in the heat, her heavy boots
balance on the brittle ground.
One clumsy step would Hitchcock
her far past any Cather’d fate.
Under endless sky, under such danger,
over ground under which
scuttles the unseen swarm.
To step or not, Anna? I can’t decide.
Anyway, now, you’ve a Willa your own.