I was reading Boris Pasternak’s biography.
Controversy! The publication of Doctor Zhivago
is imminent. He will receive the Nobel prize,
to a chorus of Soviet boos. The biographer
is welcomed in, handed a drink. There are many toasts.
I am apolitical, have no idealist views, Pasternak tells him,
am not a socialist realist, not even a communist
however casually asserts, I am almost an atheist.
Yet he is emotive in unfolding his ideas on God.
Vodka voices raised, neighbours talk of burning
Soviet literary critics yell, get out of your ivory tower
but Stalin had once said, leave this cloud dweller alone.
Quickly I flip the page. I am interrupted
an ant is traipsing across the page.
Instantly, automatically, I flick at it with my finger,
hitting it, but do not dislodge it
The ant now crawls, one leg if that’s what it’s called
bent at a bad angle, limping if that’s what it’s called
toward the edge of the page
and I bereft am left to wonder, what was it
that caused my need to strike at and hurt something
ten thousand times smaller than me?
I lose interest in history and slam shut the book
open up the page, the ant now resembles a flat
question mark, unmoving under the word unworthy.
At least it is out of its misery. Not me. I put the book down
and write the poem. It is to me. But it is for the ant.