Back to Plath Main Page  |



by Sylvia Plath, 1956

  Anansi, black busybody of the folktales,
  You scuttle out on impulse
  Blunt in self-interest
  As a sledge hammer, as a man’s bunched fist,
5 Yet of devils the cleverest
  To get your carousals told:
  You spun the cosmic web : you squint from center field.
  Last summer I came upon your Spanish cousin,
  Notable robber baron,
10 Behind a goatherd’s hut:
  Near his small Stonehenge above the ants’ route,
  One-third ant-size, a leggy spot,

He tripped an ant with a rope

  Scarcely visible.  About and about the slope
15 Of his redoubt he ran his nimble filament,
  Each time round winding that ant
  Tighter to the cocoon
  Already veiling the gray spool of stone
  From which coils, caught ants waved legs in
20 Torpid warning, or lay still
  And suffered their livelier fellows to struggle.
  Then briskly scaled his altar tiered with tethered ants,
  Nodding in a somnolence
  Appalling to witness,
25 To the barbarous outlook, from there chose
  His next martyr to the gross cause
  Of concupiscence.  Once more
  With black alacrity bound round his prisoner.
  The ants—a file of comers, a file of goers—
30 Persevered on a set course

No scruple could disrupt,

  Obeying orders of instinct till swept
  Off-stage and infamously wrapped
  Up by a spry black deus

Ex machina.  Nor did they seem deterred by this.