by David Roderick

When Cece asks me
  if she’ll die someday

I offer a few
  shopworn phrases

and point her to
  the ants building

their empire beneath
  our driveway—

the strength in
  their brittle bodies.

She can’t help
  but kill a few

as she lifts them
  onto parched leaves.

Look, Dad, the ants
  are dreaming

Sometimes at night
  when I can’t sleep

I creep to her bed
  to check her vitals—

heat at her temples,
  her barely traceable

breaths under
  the dark, and finally

my ear pressed
  against her naked

back to listen
  to her heartbeats,

their ceaseless
  muscular power.

Who knows
  what keeps them

working so hard
  down below—

the ants lifting
  crumbs of dirt

and a dead fly’s
  wing to their hive—

while fall’s first chill
  strikes my neck,

and a hummingbird
  zips—chit chit

after feeding
  from blighted buds.

DAVID RODERICK is the author of two books of poems, Blue Colonial and The Americans. From 2017-2019 he wrote the “State Lines” poetry column for The San Francisco Chronicle. A former Wallace Stegner Fellow and Amy Lowell Scholar, Roderick lives in Berkeley, California and co-directs Left Margin LIT, a creative writing center and work space serving writers in the East Bay.