A Poem from Zaid Shlah: ‘An Ant Climbs a Wall’

Iraqi-Canadian poet Zaid Shlah has a new collection of poems and essays just out from Frontenac House PressClockWork:


Shlah was 2005 winner of an American Academy of Poets Award. His first book of poetry, Taqsim, came out in 2006, and he currently teaches composition and English literature at Modesto Junior College.

In Fady Joudah’s words: “Only a real poet would engage the labyrinthine domains of language, their factories and control systems, to achieve a genuine critical consciousness that insists on resistance as well as kindness. Zaid Shlah is such a poet, and his hybrid, achingly searching ClockWork captures this on the dot.”

Shlah has graciously agreed to share “An Ant Climbs a Wall” from the collection:

An Ant Climbs a Wall

Somewhere between
Istanbul and the Ottoman’s
last breath

an ant legs its way up
an ancient, white wall.

At a certain protrusion
in the wall, the ant tumbles
to the ground—

I have been watching
it climb now, only to fall,
for over three cups of tea.

Farther off to the left the
fallen remains of Aphrodite
continue to decay in the

garden, while the muezzin
sounds late afternoon’s
prayer—I am neither

Muslim nor Christian,
though I can hear the ants
prayer against the wall:

tiny hairs of resistance
against an objective fate;
while I, fully immersed in

the faith of hot tea, leave
the sugar unstirred at the
bottom of my stikan.


About the ClockWork collection

“Thirty-three beads on a string”