Home > Animals in the City > Half Past Four on a Lurid August Day

Half Past Four on a Lurid August Day

May 8, 2013

by Joseph Harker

Consider the insects: a pilgrimage of ants lays down
trails of blind devotion from their abdomens, leading from
their dry dirt-mound pyramid to the communion rail
around one fallen cicada tumbled on the sidewalk;

a steady stream zeroes in and circumambulates the great
grey-and-green body, inscrutable as the moon and just as
pockmarked with maria, the deep hue of an ivy leaf, dark little
stains of envy under its mashrabiya wings;

and they take their fill of that thumb-sized sacrifice
blown open, crawling with summer-bred soldiers who carry
this bounty back behind the terracotta pots and the garden
hose, crypto-pagans living right under the stoop;

here I am, sitting, watching, pineapple juice dripping
like manna from my chin, a sweet false prophecy they pause
to marvel at, before carrying on, ignoring the passing cars
ruffling their antennae with thick, inconstant air.

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Joseph Harker is the pseudonym of a linguist-poet living in New York, where the animals you see are usually six-legged and/or unwholesome. (Currently, though, he lives with a small and elderly cat.) His work has appeared in Clapboard House, Ganymede, Red Fez, and other publications both in print and online; you can also find him at his blog, Naming Constellations.

  1. Steve T.
    May 8, 2013 at 10:01 pm

    I love this piece. Nice use of very interesting language.

  2. May 9, 2013 at 1:18 pm

    Wonderful. I like the lunar language that describes the cicada. This poem really invites the reader to wonder how the world is perceived by those ants.

  3. May 10, 2013 at 10:12 am

    I love how this poem puts the magnifying glass to the ants and shows their details to the reader. What also struck me was your use of religious language and imagery — “communion rail”, “sweet false prophecy”, “crypto-pagans” to name a few. Is eating — whether it be by human or animal — an act of worship? Is the worth of a sacrifice in its ability to be consumed?


  4. May 10, 2013 at 12:45 pm

    Wonderful poem, language, images… “all those crypto pagans living under the stoop.” And Nicole’s observation about communion and consumption. great stuff.

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