Friday poem: 'Love Song, 31st July'
By Richard Osmond
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.
Richard Osmond's debut collection Useful Verses follows in the tradition of the best nature writing, being as much about the human world as the natural, the present as the past: Osmond, a professional forager, has a deep knowledge of flora and fauna as they appear in both natural and human history, as they are depicted in both folklore and herbal - but he views them through a wholly contemporary lens.