Carpenter Ant Hatch, Spring 1991

Once the decision is taken, it isn’t hard to kill them. I watch one clutch the body of another in its pincers, carrying it toward home. But I don’t let it escape. Yesterday, one of the huge flying males bit me savagely on the fingertip. I remember reading that native people used these ants for stitches, letting them bite the wound closed, then snipping off the body, leaving the head clamped in place. Last night in the dark, I could hear them fall from the ceiling to the kitchen floor like little paratroopers. Now they’re everywhere. I don’t mean to make light of this. It’s a question of territory. They are destroying my house. So I use poison gas on them and they drop, well, like flies. I clearly have superior weaponry. They’ve got numbers on me. In Iraq a U.S. general described fleeing Iraqi soldiers as “scurrying like cockroaches when you turn on the light.” A seven mile long traffic jam of retreating vehicles was destroyed from the air, as many as fifty thousand men killed in a few hours. When the ants see me, they run, so they must have some sort of mind. Still, I use the fireplace shovel to smash them. They are slow, not very maneuverable, though they have the advantage of being able to climb walls. Broken in half, their bodies keep struggling, the head biting and the feet running on opposite sides of the room. I don’t want them to suffer and try to crush them until they’re still. When asked why his forces had buried thousands of Iraqis alive in their trenches, the commander responded simply, “There is no humane way to kill.” In many of the burnt-out trucks and transports on the Kuwaiti highway no remains could be found, only a light dusting of ashes. I sweep the pile of black bodies, which look like tiny raisins, into a brown paper bag and toss it into the fireplace, weeping.

Ken Zimmerman 1991

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