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

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Recordings

Pascale Petit

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1The Strait-jackets

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2Embrace of the Electric Eel

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3Self-Portrait with Fire Ants

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4Self-Portrait as a Warao Violin

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5The Ant Glove

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6Landowners

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7The Snake House

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8My Mother's Perfume

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9The Second Husband

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10Atlas Moth

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11Hieroglyph Moth

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12My Birth

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13Memory (I)

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14The Bus

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15Remembrance of an Open Wound

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16The Broken Column

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17Self-Portrait with Monkeys

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18What the Water Gave Me (VI)

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19To Her Unborn Child

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20Hoopoe Boy

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21Arrival of the Electric Eel

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23Fauverie IV (Black Jaguar)

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24Black Bird

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25Fauverie V (North China Leopard)

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26A Tray of Frozen Songbirds

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27Emmanuel

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28My Father's City

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29Harpy Eagle Father

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30Lunette

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31The Hudson Remembers

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Books by Pascale Petit