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. 

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

More about this poem

Richard Osmond was born in 1987. He works as a wild-food forager, searching for plants, fruits and fungi among the forests and ...

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