--for Yuh-Shioh Wong who understood when I told her I am a painter
DAY ONE: I followed an ant back to his nest in the Chihuahuan Desert, a little juniper seed in his mouth. I drew a line on paper, following as he crawled around cactus and over pebbles. The cooperative kingdom of ants has always fascinated and frightened me much the way obedient men and women are when god and country are their foremost concerns. I never envy the ant carrying his seed into the underground food stores, programmed to question nothing, programmed to never run away or kill himself. Carry the seed, climb, burrow, and maybe the angel of death will show mercy and send a hungry bird or tarantula. No one will know you are gone no one will care, every other ant too busy working working WORKING! When Nana Conrad died they had her funeral on a Saturday so no one
DAY TWO: I took the ant map to a random part of the desert, followed it to a small rock, a kind of oblivion, unexpected but solid nonetheless. I sat on the rock like an egg, wanting to hatch the rebellion! How much straining! I drew the map on my naked body behind shrubs, my third eye the nest entrance, tracing the journey in reverse, taking notes of my every memory of doing what I was told, toward some standard of goodness. HOW do we create a kind, generous, but disobedient world? Later I took a strand of cooked spaghetti, arranged it in the shape of the ant map. When it dried I took it to the entrance of the nest. I said, “I DON’T KNOW WHICH ONE OF YOU GAVE ME THIS MAP, BUT I’M GIVING IT BACK!” I crumbled it around the hole for the industrious little beings to carry it piece by piece to their queen for her approval. Do what you need to do, but I’m writing a poem from my notes.