A Quarterly Journal of Contemporary English Language Haibun
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June 2005, vol 1 no 1

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William Ramsey, USA

The Ants

"for dread is born inevitably of choice"
--Soren Kierkegaard

My father told me once that he had seen my kind before. He said I would always be seeking, but always I would be in flight. So from the high butte and scrub junipers I descended toward cactus flats, Flagstaff well behind me. The month before, back in California, on a Wednesday about 10:30 a.m., I composed this e-mail memo:

TO: Mr. James Merriman FROM: Benedict Abbott

I am submitting my resignation, effective at the next click. This will, of course, be quite a surprise to you, but as you know the team's software project will meet its deadline, and I am replaceable.

Sometimes, Jack, it is too much meaning, not its paucity, that overwhelms the soul.

Yours, Ben

Around me passed the eeriest landscape I had ever seen. Stark, strangely colossal, old, and hauntingly spare of life. It was where I had to stop finally. Perhaps because it seemed so ancient and true, and I could imagine, millennia ago, the thick-browed brain of a shaman, stirred by holy fire as he stood high on a boulder looking upward and thinking in one fleeting spasm of panic: I need to know the point of this.

saguaro cactus--
dark altar candles
in desert dusk

I've seen the whole universe in cyberspace. There as in actual space all expands rapidly, unstoppably, and with significances that are illimitable. At one portal several months ago the simple notion of chair multiplied at one click into 1743 related notions, each a virtual reality, yet each competing for its own slender, tenuous ontological status. Scrolling screen after screen I pulled up a random litter of beach, lounge, directors', wheel, patio, folding, dental, wicker, and rocking chairs--side by side with endowed chairs, the Cyber Chair, Virtual Seating ("Sparky" the electric chair scrolling up as well) all jostling with co-equals in creation like the Anwar Sadat Chair for Peace and Development, the Nada-Chair, and the Polymorphous Poof Chair. These, in an enigmatic logic, sharing some kind of elusive, a priori essence with Three Kids Kicking the Crap out of a Chair. Plato's cave could hardly hold them all.

"Son," he said, "why the hell are you so reluctantly religious?"

I suppose he's lying there now, on the other side, knowing full well how I have searched for God in places I have known best to look. Like God.com. So direct and promising that you think at first it's the real thing. Though maybe not so California casual as Meet God--or so hip as My Pal God. Of these three, I am wondering which is the One that he has found?--Poop God or God Hates Figs or God Bless Ronald Reagan? There are so many others, and that's the problem. You try to settle on a special one that equals the majesty of Michelangelo's Sistine ceiling panel. So you pause at God Rocks. But then, monk-like, you contemplate God Save the Sex Pistols, or God's Girlfriend, or the inspiring God Ate My Homework. At another, you remember that even Saint Augustine was Horny for God. Now you discover that the Second Coming is scheduled to arrive in California. Lo, in the Hollywood Hills, it is trumpeted: Quentin Tarantino: A God Among Directors.

A week ago at dusk, in the vast, searing asphalt of a truck stop, I paused to stare at a lone ant mound. Its buff-colored sand grains rose out of an acre-long crack, the image of a futility that I could envy. Because from egg to grave ants have no private life, no individual tastes, no subterranean chambers of introspection. Each is issued generic abdomen, thorax, feelers, head, and brain. Barely any yearn for sex. All sense innately they must labor, endure, and raise, like the pyramid workers, blocks of angular bedrock to no aim; yet no Job-like ant wails in woe and sackcloth, nor do epic ant-poets celebrate their courage or culture. Unlike us, they have no need for priests, philosophers, teachers, therapists, and comedians. They have, like you, Father, solved the problem of dread.

a computer screen:
electronic ants seeking
virtual stones



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