On Being Born


At age 7 you plunge from the top of a walnut tree
only to be saved & swallowed
by a red ant hill. The pinhole an entrance
of undulations around hardpan & root. You grasp
that ants understand infinity in their relentless
caves, that to escape is to dig deeper into dark. You
accept this labyrinth as life & taste earth
from the inside. The ants do not say
they desire to cave your body,
tunnel your organs & marrow, but you feel this ache
from your hand, now flame & fire & punctures
from a colony of mandibles, now a glove
burning & dancing to your agony. The ants take
the hand. You ask to leave but learn
ants have no ears. You swipe them away,
only they return. You swipe them
away, only they return. You swipe them away, only
they return. You see how they now devour
both hands & discover ants will fight
to the death. You do not pray, but gnaw
at your hands. The ants see you will feed
& scuttle off. You bleed & watch
the ants remake their hill & disappear. The stars
whistle & your hands swell.

Anthony Cody is a CantoMundo fellow and an editorial member of the Hmong American Writers’ Circle. He was born in Fresno, California with roots in both the Dust Bowl and Bracero Program. His poetry has been appeared in U.S. Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera’s 187 Reasons Mexicanos Can’t Cross the Border: Undocuments 1971–2007 (City Lights), How Do I Begin?: A Hmong American Literary Anthology (Heyday), in which he also served as co-editor, Prairie Schooner, ToeGood Poetry Journal, Gentromancer - a collaborative cross-genre art project with artist Josue Rojas in El Tecolote. New work is forthcoming in TriQuarterly. He is currently pursuing his MFA in Creative Writing - Poetry at Fresno State.