Ant Rant by Willie Smith


Out in the desert I grew sick of locust. Guts of paste, papery wings, legs like barbarous toothpicks; whether roasted, honey-pickled or fried in their own tobacco spit. Besides, the idea entered my head: why not give food a chance?

Then came that broiling afternoon I stumbled on a thriving hill. Scooped up a handful. Sifted out the sand. Devoured several dozen writhing beings.

The taste was piquant, sulphurous; with a metallic hint of exquisitely thin tin foil. Forget candied corpses: we’re talking swarming nibbling live pismires.

Most got crunched to death. Petioles, gasters, mandibles, heads, legs, antennas, alitrunks – broken, crushed; salivated, swirled, gulped.

But a minute percentage made it. Clung to the palate. Curled between molars. Grasped the uvula the way a whorehouse monkey might a chandelier. Onto the root of the tongue latched. Or got swallowed alive – thence to do battle in the belly with my tapeworm, like a mongoose with a cobra.

That first lunch totaled thousands. I was starved – had fasted for days; disgusted with locust, unable to locate a viable substitute. Of these maybe ten lived – hunkered down, scrounging off my esophagus; while I continued, ignorant of the infiltration, to consume prey alive.

I took a fancy to the eyes. Tinier than pinpoints. But of a toothsome gelatinousness yielding a tangerine licorice tang. Were I a gourmet, instead of an anchorite, I would doubtless have blinded billions, expressly to obtain a few precious thimblefuls of ocular caviar, so keen became my passion.

As it was, I gobbled only three more meals of squirming hymenoptera, before deciding they tasted too sublime. I returned to the killed, cooked, bland locust; the confusion of who ate whom no longer enchanting.

But of the few score who survived mastication, at least one resultant ant not only lodged herself in my larynx, but learned to manipulate the organ. So that, while talking to God (I’m talking to you right now, Lord) I unpredictably lapse into appeals for heaps of dead beetles.

When the insect commandeers my voice I also sometimes pray aloud for Domino sugar sacks high as Sinai; colonies more vast than Shanghai; the extinction of ant lions. A honeydewed aphid in every pot. And life everlasting – incessantly working oneself to death in the service of Heaven’s Queen.

Each time such pirated prayers erupt, the ants play musical chairs, racing around like thoughts that ought not occur.

Oh Lord, I recant me of these rants. Can’t you see? It was just a momentary mistake in dietary intake! Don’t hear this banter, this Indianapolis 500 of heretics!

Words be damned! This chaff of chance chants! Words, words, I got words in my pants. More words yet – all I own is a loin cloth!

You know me. Are intimate with my thoughts. Although (was it only yesterday?) thought felt bug crawl up back of throat – to penetrate some membrane giving into the brain…?

Time feels all the same out here under the sun, above the sand, among the horizons. Likewise inside – where you scrutinize the ant farm of my skull.

And because I am your slave, oh Lord – a feeler, a treader, an eater upon the face of the earth – all the world fills with the promise that work will conquer life.


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