(Soma)tic Poetry Ritual & Resulting Poem

for Yuh-Shioh Wong who understood when I told her I am a painter

Ant Cartography

DAY ONE:  I followed an ant back to his nest in the Chihuahuan Desert, a little juniper seed in his mouth.  I drew a line on paper, following as he crawled around cactus and over pebbles.  The cooperative kingdom of ants has always fascinated and frightened me much the way obedient men and women are when god and country are their foremost concerns.  I never envy the ant carrying his seed into the underground food stores, programmed to question nothing, programmed to never run away or kill himself.  Carry the seed, climb, burrow, and maybe the angel of death will show mercy and send a hungry bird or tarantula.  No one will know you are gone no one will care, every other ant too busy working working WORKING!  When Nana Conrad died they had her funeral on a Saturday so no one would have to miss a day of work work WORK at the factory.

DAY TWO:  I took the ant map to a random part of the desert, followed it to a small rock, a kind of oblivion, unexpected but solid nonetheless.  I sat on the rock like an egg, wanting to hatch the rebellion!  How much straining!  I drew the map on my naked body behind shrubs, my third eye the nest entrance, tracing the journey in reverse, taking notes of my every memory of doing what I was told, toward some standard of goodness.  HOW do we create a kind, generous, but disobedient world?  Later I took a strand of cooked spaghetti, arranged it in the shape of the ant map.  When it dried I took it to the entrance of the nest.  I said, “I DON’T KNOW WHICH ONE OF YOU GAVE ME THIS MAP, BUT I’M GIVING IT BACK!”  I crumbled it around the hole for the industrious little beings to carry it piece by piece to their queen for her approval.  Do what you need to do, but I’m writing a poem from my notes.


When We Were All Afraid to Be Ants

I love Greek mythology
me too all that sex
don’t be vulgar
are you distressed by the enormous genitals of the gods
don’t be ridiculous what are you talking about
their cocks can split you in half their cavernous cunts swallow you whole you pull yourself out next morning groggy with a vaginal hangover
stop it you’re awful
Greek mythology is sex jealousy revenge sex jealousy revenge you know it’s true
but it’s not how you say
in every story humans are manipulated enslaved or raped by those bastards their colossal genitals terrifying the mortals you can’t possibly think having sex with Zeus is the same as having sex with your boyfriend Tom
but I love Tom
and I love Tom too so to hell with the gods



CAConrad’s PACE The Nation Project is touring the U.S. to ask poets how to repair our war-obsessed nation. He is the author of seven books including ECODEVIANCE: (Soma)tics for the Future Wilderness (Wave Books, 2014), A BEAUTIFUL MARSUPIAL AFTERNOON (Wave Books, 2012) and The Book of Frank (Wave Books, 2010). A 2014 Lannan Fellow, a 2013 MacDowell Fellow, and a 2011 Pew Fellow, he also conducts workshops on (Soma)tic poetry and Ecopoetics. Visit him online at