Answering Midas
J. D. Smith (bio)

Answering Midas

     he paces pulls at his beard
     and asks old men
     —how many days does the ant live
     —why does the dog howl before a death
     —how high would a mountain be
     piled from the bones
     of all past animals and humans

     Zbigniew Herbert

Its days uncounted
as the first Israelites,
the ant dies by intuition,
weakening beneath a crumb
that will mark its grave
until gleaned by a colleague
from humus manured

by the scats of a howling dog
that smells decay even before
cells switch off and darken
every window in the body’s city.
his voice thus precedes
the stretching of sheets over faces
and unknowingly laments the day

his own ant-cleaned bones are set
atop the heap of past creatures,
above dinosaur strata, mammoth midden,
Greeks and Trojans in level defeat,
interspersed with fragments
of shrew and tortoise, and farmers
fallen in the turning of seasons.
Thicker layers mark Crusades,
a Cultural Revolution,
and rise to a summit
past the altitude of bones
where one could confirm these words.

We are likely to be waiting for you there,
but, gladly, we would follow.

J. D. Smith

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