“Ode to Hunger, Under the Guise That I Am an Ant” by Linus Elkins
October 2, 2023
I have a name,
but not one representative in its nature.
You humans refer to it with these multi-syllable menageries called
pheromones, symbolic as inaccessible to most fine creatures on this earth,
but I won’t take pride in knowing what I can’t share,
so I will say it plainly: I have a name.
My good kind serves a being,
who you have called “queen” –
and may I scold you just for that?
If one of your people reigned over you,
multi-armed & larger than life,
elected through a determinate feeding process
that chose her as the mother to all the larvae
in your colony,
one who knew womanhood like a knife,
you would not treat it like simple monarchy.
That is to say, my good kind serves a being,
who we have called god, she who births
bodies, laying every egg with a promise that
one day we will give back to her what love
she was so generous to use, my name if you’ll
let me lend you the word, is hunger, synonymous
to purpose, to know myself as such is to know me greater than my size –
and I am very small.
I know hunger that shells over life and creates dusk where there very well could be dawn,
hunger like a thumb on my abdomen, hunger like a needle –
one that urges & draws,
what is that which gets lost in a carpet yet brings a grown man to his knees,
I know hunger like you might know love.
For I carry it with me everywhere, seeking into picnic basket tupperware,
balancing crumbs back to house & home,
you say love is taken through the heart,
but mammal, your first offering of such a thing
was done through a display much like my own:
and you, nursing.
This poem was written by Linus Elkins, as a 2023-24 Youth Poetry Fellow. Performed at the Seattle Arts & Lectures Poetry Series event with Jane Hirshfield on Monday, October 2, 2023 at Rainier Arts Center.