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Diatomaceous Earth

When it comes in contact with an insect, the silica removes the waxy outer coating

from the insect’s exoskeleton. Without this coating, the insect cannot retain water

and dies of dehydration.


White pollen of the tombstone,

I build little pyramids of you

to keep the ants away. You slip

under exoskeletons

like an envelope beneath a door.

Secrets hidden in your making

when I learn you come from bones.

It’s the law about diamond only

broken by diamond all over again.

How I am most dangerous to myself.

And to these ants, who run a livid

line from the ceiling down the wall

to the sink, so I drive to the store

and buy this bag of white earth

so soft it disgusts me. Tonight

let me slip into something a little

less conscious; two bottles deep

I conduct a census of bodies I have

labored away. Let them come in!

Let the dotted line of carbon-

copied ants shiver down the wall.

Their Spartan life: point A to B.

I could follow it too—the arcana

of instinct. Watch me

squirm under fluorescent lights

so suddenly aware I am alone.

In a thin mask of sweat I dial

the numbers I have learned

by heart and then hang up.

I lay a little pox upon my sink,

a ring of earth around the house.


NICK MARTINO is a Best New Poets and Best of the Net nominee whose work has been published or is forthcoming from Frontier Poetry, Sugar House Review, Fugue, Birdcoat Quarterly, Meridian, and Hobart, among others. An MFA candidate in poetry at University of California, Irvine, he was the winner of UC Irvine’s 2021 Programs in Writing Award for Excellence in Poetry. He serves as the poetry editor of Faultline Journal and lives in Los Angeles.


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