The Ants and the Double Helix
North Carolina Literary Review, Fall 2001
Dr. Catherine Carter

Gold Horizontal Line





With the cuttings of my nails
you can curse me, or by the ground
where my shadow lies. Snip,
a nail falls away, but witchery once
is science now: chains
of nucleotides bind the signature
of the self, and there they are
locked in horn, a thumb
print in every cell, all me.
Careful as we are
to keep ourselves intact
and singular—washed clean,
waste flushed away, nothing’s
enough, no one is safe.
Where I pick at a scab, and a flake
of dry skin flicks to the grass, look—
the ants have gathered, it rocks
like a live thing, shimmers
with movement, one moment
of thousands where I scatter myself out,
becoming permeable to the world
that has a use for everything.
Ants nibble me cell by cell,
hoist me over antennae,
hurry me away underground.
They have me.
In synecdoche I am theirs
to feed upon, to curse, to bless.


Dr. Catherine Carter
Director of English Education
421 Coulter Hall
Western Carolina University
Cullowhee, NC 28723
(828) 227-3931