Thursday, September 17, 2009
Johnson's Cabinet Watched By Ants
Johnson’s Cabinet Watched by Ants
It is a clearing deep in a forest:
overhanging boughs make a low place.
Here the citizens we know during the day,
The ministers, the department heads,
Appear changed: the stockholders of
large steel companies
In small wooden shoes;
here are the generals dressed
as gamboling lambs.
Tonight they burn the rice supplies;
tomorrow they lecture on Thoreau;
tonight they move around the trees;
Tomorrow they pick the twigs
from their clothes;
Tonight they throw the firebombs;
tomorrow they read
the Declaration of Independence;
tomorrow they are in church.
Ants are gathered around an old tree.
In a choir they sing,
in harsh and gravelly voices,
Old Etruscan songs on tyranny.
Toads nearby clap their small hands,
and join the fiery songs,
their five long toes trembling
in the soaked earth.
Posted over on Poetry Foundation
Robert Bly, “Johnson’s Cabinet Watched by Ants” from Selected Poems. Copyright © 1967 and renewed 1995 by Robert Bly.