Worker Ants / The Demise of Benny the Brave

Clouds Pile Up North
by Maj Ragain

reading by Tom Hall

These August afternoons I spend
on the front porch of the lake cottage
with the neighborhood children,
A gaggle of tadpoles cavorting
in the sparkling waters of summer.
I set up a repair shop for fishing reels,
roller skates, fire trucks and cut
bubble gum out of hair. Tend splinters.
Make dill pickle faces and wiggle my ears.

I tell them stories, how Jesus once rode
a walrus down the middle of the lake.
I saw it one midnight under the Aurora Borealis,
spiked lightning racing from pole to pole.
Where’d the walrus come from? frowns little
thumb sucking Clint. From the manger
right next to where Jesus was born.
Clint rolls his eyes and asks, You got
any more red popsicles?

Little Sarah holds up a twenty-dollar bill,
her monthly allowance, and asks, Whose picture is this?
That is Thomas Jefferson, the grand architect of this country.
Says here right under the picture his name is Andrew Jackson.
Yep, Old Hickory, a tough guy. Sarah rolls her eyes,
puts the twenty back into her pink sequined purse
and snaps the clasp.

Clint’s toad stool-tall ninja brother Kent
wanders over to see where Clint got the
popsicle.  In the freezer. Be sure to shut the door.

The Baptist neighbor brothers find their way
to the meeting. Beanpole Ike the Spike
and his morose little sidekick, Jake the Snake.
the tag he wears. They stand off to the side, 
wearing the heavy boots of their parents’ fears
in a fallen world.
You guys want a popsicle?
No, thank you.
The fisher boys, Bustin’ Justin and red headed Birdman,
trudge up the sidewalk from the pier. I know
the answer, but I want to hear it from them,
their sweet piping lilt. You do any good?
Nothin’ but a couple of mud turtles. They got
our hooks.

Jessica, the dark shy cricket who drags
her left foot in the gravel, plays alone
as always, building a tiny castle of
sticks and stones.

I tell the children not to kill the ants
on the front porch, because these tiny creatures
are all God’s children, like us,
and they are my friends.
I know their names, every ant on the hill.
The worker ants are scurrying
home to play with their kids.

Clint brings one to me
and asks, Who’s this?
Ah, this is my good friend Brave Benny.
Clint drops Benny to the concrete
and grinds him with his size-four
Batman tennis shoe.

I tell him, One day your heart
of compassion will open.
Everything will change.
Clint: You’re a fat ass.

Summer is old.
The lake has turned over,
a murky, pungent green.
Clarity is nothing I want

Let our closeness be such,
when you weep
I taste salt.

Worker Ants
oil on panel
12 x 12”

The Demise of Benny the Brave
oil on panel
12 x 12”

Maj Ragain. Clouds Pile Up in the North: New & Selected Poem Press 53, LLC, Winston-Salem, NC, 2017p.15-17

Damen, Jessica & Ragain, Maj, Home To Sargasso Sea-A Long Journey of Loving Collaboration, exhibition catalog, June 1-July 14, 2018, KSU Downtown Gallery, Kent OH, Kent State University School of Art Collection and Galleries and the Wick Poetry Center with support from the Ohio Arts Council. pp 40-41