(Dedicated to Vishnu Sharma, and his distant grandsons
like Aesop, Le Fontaine & Borges)
When the monster ant challenged a black widow spider,
in a forbidden corner of a hunter’s lodge.
Though ants of the size of a rice grain are common,
imagine an ant larger than a popcorn. (Applause!)
Before the morbid duel of arthropods can ensue,
remember what I narrate is as true as sky is blue.
For half-a-billion years, spider-webs enraptured
ants mid-flight. The spiders feasted
on the juices of the proletariat ants
but it seemed tonight, the fable
could turn. Anxious house-flies implanted
cameras on their backs to telecast
the apocalyptic event. Rows and rows
of rice-size ants gathered on floor,
to watch the duel ‘live’ on the ceiling-sky,
by using spherical lenses made of bubbles
to magnify the distant fantasies!
The death-match was to be fought
without a referee mediating;
Fangs and formic acid of the ant
against the sticky web and the guile
of the spider. The webmaster said,
“One act of heroism, one idea, the will
or virtue or the skill of a single being,
can transform the universe.
A victory for the monster ant threatens
the hierarchy of food-chains, and when fear
from the faces of victims vanishes, a despot
dies too.” Rousing itself thus, the spider
accepted the tantrums and terms
of the duel-of-insects. “For gory, and for glory”,
said the monster ant, “shall we fight”.
‘Give it back to the webmaster tonight’,
sang the ants in unison. The war began,
when the chief camera-fly, said: “Cheese!”
Battle-ready flying monster ant shot a jet
of formic acid into the spider’s compound
eye. Though noxious fumes clouded
the spider’s collection of miniature lenses,
webmaster retaliated with its spit-like
stringy fluid. But spurts from abdomen
of the blinded weaver, missed the ant.
The monster ant now aimed its acidic jet
at the spinneret from where oozes the web
and in the mid-flight
the two jets collided, creating fishbones and drops
that exploded on hitting flooor. Then ants dispersed,
and returned with acid-proof, transparent, bullet-proof,
omniphobic umbrellas. The flies struggled
to keep their high-speed cameras rolling.
Both spider and monster ant were starved
for ammunition, and this was a battle
of wits (as much as it was of fluid
mechanics). The ardent ant decided
that a few bulls-eyes at the head
were its surest bet, and attacked meticulously
till the acid ate through the spider’s thorax.
Celebrations began when the spider fell,
but in the pell-mell, the monster ant itself
got trapped in a web of its dead nemesis.
But the Queen Ant adept in blue-blood politics
now emerged and distracted her ignoramus subjects.
High on tequila, french fries and candy, ants danced below,
while the monster ant perished after a struggle
as a martyr carcass trapped by a web.
In the recording of death-rattle captured by a camera
left-on by carelessness, the dying monster ant
proclaimed: “I curse you o thankless fellow-ants,
if the spiders were brutal killers so far, in future
they will be freakier, and worse!”
Indian Literature | Indian Review Author | Vivek Sharma‘s first book of verse The Saga of a Crumpled Piece of Paper (Writers Workshop, Calcutta, 2009) was shortlisted for Muse India Young Writer Award 2011. His work in English appears in Atlanta Review, Bateau, Poetry, The Cortland Review, Muse India, Reading Hour among others while his Hindi articles and verses appear in Divya Himachal (Hindi newspaper, India), Himachal Mitra and Argala. Vivek grew up in Himachal Pradesh (Himalayas, India), and moved to the United States in 2001. Vivek is a Pushcart nominated poet, is published as a scientist and he lives and teaches in Chicago.