It flew into the living room abruptly last night. We’d left the balcony door cracked open to let in some fresh air and to hear the sounds of the city. Biscuits noticed it before I did and immediately sprung into action. V grabbed the broom, some shoes, and some Windex. Anything we could use to hit it, spray it, knock it down (Oh no!).
Roaches, rats, or ants?
In Chicago it was rats. I lived next door to a bus barn in a renovated rectory. I was 21 and new to the city, new to a life that was distinctly my own. It was a weeknight and I’d gone to the basement to grab a book for school. I just needed a few chapter books to help my 5th graders get ideas for their research paper.
It was dimly lit, so I tip-toed slowly. I needed to find my footing, and the basement floor was colder than I’d imagined. I couldn’t see it, but I felt it. I almost stepped on it with my bare toes. It was the largest, most disgusting, smashed in, clearly-dead rat I had ever seen. The struggle is real.
In Houston it was roaches. I’d been running errands on campus and one flew onto my shirt. FLEW. ONTO. MY. SHIRT. The horror! I screamed and flailed. I screamed from right to left. I did everything I could to find someone able to save me.
For him, it’s ants. Ants organize. Ants retaliate. They’re willing to give up their life for the sake of the cause, whatever the cause may be. Nothing is off bounds; nothing is off limits. They work together and stay on mission, stay on point. They are soldiers. They work in the light. They work in the darkness.
What’s most distinctive about them (besides their size) is that they aren’t intimidated by anything. They’re not threatened by threats. More than rats and roaches, they have something to prove. They have something important to teach us. They are formidable.
We can mirror their commitment to organizing. We can mirror their sacrifice.
Ants on the Melon
by Virginia Hamilton Adair
Once when our blacktop city
was still a topsoil town
we carried to Formicopolis
a cantaloupe rind to share
and stooped to plop it down
in their populous Times Square
at the subway of the ants
and saw that hemisphere
blacken and rise and dance
with antmen out of hand
wild for their melon toddies
just like our world next year
no place to step or stand
except on bodies.
Ants on a melon. When I first read it, I focused on “bodies.” I focused on the threat of war, of violence, and of trauma. Like ants on a melon.
Reading it now again, in light of Trump, the Paris climate agreement, Bannon, O’Reilly, Betty Shelby, I focus on the ants. I think of what miraculous work they can do when they are united.
I think of what miraculous work we can do when we are not afraid. Like Ants on a Melon.