Self-Portrait with Fire Ants
To visit you Father, I wear a mask of fire ants.
When I sit waiting for you to explain
why you abandoned me when I was eight
they file in, their red bodies
massing around my eyes, stinging my pupils white
until I’m blind. Then they attack my mouth.
I try to lick them but they climb down my gullet
until an entire swarm stings my stomach,
while you must become a giant anteater,
push your long sticky tongue down my throat,
as you once did to my baby brother,
French-kissing him while he pretended to sleep.
I can’t remember what you did to me, but the ants know.
from The Zoo Father (Seren, 2001), © Pascale Petit 2001, used by permission of the author and the publisher