by alana garrigues
manzanita, oregon | september 2021
one large black ant
a bodybuilder, surely,
each bump of its body
-head, thorax, abdomen-
the size of a ripe huckleberry
to the salted sea.
it has nearly reached tide’s edge,
stepping thousands of tiny steps by now, from
the sea grasses, or the blackberry vines, or the pines across the road,
over the dunes and a quarter mile of dry sand,
to arrive here.
no small feat, even for a bodybuilder.
i stop and wonder why,
gazing at it for ten minutes or more,
taking one long stride for every hundred or so it takes.
i can’t help but watch its journey,
protectively standing near as other humans pass, not noticing.
it would break my hard to watch them quash it with a shoe before it arrives,
wherever it is trying to arrive.
it can’t possibly drink the water.
it can’t possibly swim.
yet drawn to the wet,
the reflected sky,
however that must look from down so low
it marches on.
a small wave washes in.
knee deep for the ant, the water tosses its body around once
so it is facing the shore, and for a moment, i hope
it will return, i hope
it will take the water as a sign that it has come far enough.
the water recedes,
and the ant sinks on land, pulled into the wet sand that slurps
at human ankles, drowned to its midriff.
undeterred, it makes a few wide lunges, pulls itself up and out of the muck,
and turns back toward the water
the biggest labeled body in the world, the pacific.
the sand has dried just enough that its top layer is crust now,
and the bodybuilder walks.
it pauses a moment to look south,
body parallel now to the tide, ocean to its right, dry land to its left,
and i crouch down to take a picture,
to mark its presence, its existence, its blind courage.
as i do, i ask it, aloud
“did you read the awakening? is that what this is?”
when i stand, a wave rushes in, mid-calf for me, and i retreat.
once the undertow finishes its work, sucking the salty licks back to
ocean mother’s body, i return, hoping for a miracle,
but it is gone, and my own walk is calling me home.