Love Song, 31st July

Today the queen ant and her lovers

took their nuptial flight, scattering

upwards like a handful of cracked

black peppercorns thrown in the face

of a bear, the bear being in this case

a simile for the population of Lewisham

and Hither Green.


There is an increasingly common assertion

online that the winged of every ant nest

in Britain take off on the same bright

morning. This says less about ants than it does

about the state of media in which we place

ourselves: connected enough to hear

and repeat all claims and verify some,

yet prone to confirmation bias

owing to algorithms which favour

new expressions of that which we already

hold to be true.


Myth moves in step with commerce.

When merchant ships arrived

once per season from the Orient

they brought silk and saffron and stories

of dog-sized ants which mined gold

and took to the sky only to defend

their treasure from camel-riding

thieves. Now we receive the exotic

via fibre optics as a stream of

high frequency trades.


My love, I can’t speak with authority

on commodity futures, the wonders of the east

and the behaviour of insects in Liverpool

and Tunbridge Wells or any city

outside my directly observable reality,

but it’s flying ant day in my heart

if nowhere else.


from Useful Verses (Picador, 2017), copyright © Richard Osmond 2017, used by permission of the author and the publisher.

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