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National Poetry Month -- Haiku 9
head shot
My daughter got an ant farm for her birthday.
It's kind of a futuristic tank of blue gel that apparently provides the ants all they need
in terms of habitat, food and drink. It took us awhile to get around to ordering the ants so, even though her birthday was in February, my daughter just received them yesterday.

30 great big female Harvesters in a little vial in a mailing envelope. Raring to go.

The directions that come with the ant farm make it sound like no biggie to tip 'em into the tank.

Not so at our house.

Two promptly escaped.
I got one back in right away.
The other was a trickster.
Lots of quick fakes and unpredictable moves.

Both my girl and I were chasing it all over the dining room table and, in the process,
the entire

And the lid was not on tight.
And the ants took off.

My daughter cried.
The ants scattered.
I tried very hard not to swear.

Within ten minutes, most of them were back in their blue gel.
A few perished.
And my girl and I had both been stung.

Which really, really hurts.

Because, it turns out:

"Some reports indicate that harvester ant venom is the most toxic of all insect venoms to mammals."


"The harvester's painful sting has been ranked in scientific publications as worse than all but a few North American insects."


We were each stung on the hand but it hurt all the way up our arms.
I was just waiting for breathing constriction or hives.
Not a very pleasant way to get acquainted with our new friends.

My husband wonders if we should try black mambas next.
Or maybe piranhas.

But, trauma aside, there were the ants, safe in their tank as we went to bed last night, our lymph nodes still thrumming.
And this morning, they had already tunneled way down.
Built a hill.
Settled in.

I found it kind of amazing, in spite of myself.

Haiku 9

ant-sized mandibles
clear tunnels and carry bricks;
I just sit and watch

-- Liz Garton Scanlon

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Ouch oh ouch.

But WOW, you told this story-under-glass so well. I was laughing and wincing and hoping and flinching and breathing a big sigh of relief at the end. Are you sure this isn't a pb in disguise?

I was bitten on the toe once. Oh yes, I remember it.

Yeah. I mean, not to be a baby but ow!!
And no, I'm not sure that it's not a pb in disguise because I'm never sure about things like that :)

Those ant bites are something! We have big flying ants over here, and those bites really hurt. Plus my entire thigh swelled up.

Oh, nasty, Jama!!!
I think we actually got off lucky!

Ack...ant bites shouldn't hurt so much but they do.

You are such a gifted storyteller. I am continually entranced by the way you weave real life right up to the actual poem.

OMG. I can just picture the whole thing! Never a dull moment in your house! xox Jen

Yes. What you're picturing? It's kind of like that only crazier.

Thank you for giving me my laugh of the day, as well as the contented sigh of a happy ending. Love the poem, btw!

Tanita Says :)

The Maue tribe sticks their arm in a sleeve stuffed with fire ants until they can endure the pain without showing emotion; when they can manage this, they're told they're a man and can marry.

I'd be single forever in that culture.

This is an amazing little story about the resiliency of a little world -- and a bigger one. You can still appreciate them despite them causing you pain, which is quite a gift.

OK, first of all, you and both. Single Maues. Seriously. You have GOT to be kidding me.

And second, honestly, Tanita -- you should see what these little guys have done in 24 hours. It is rather fascinating and gorgeous. You'd have to have a hole in heart to not appreciate them.

Minus the toxic venom, this feels like a pb, baby. :)

Oh my oh my

I can actually hear your husband's deadpan delivery of that question. That is a really funny story and I can't even believe you could refrain from swearing in that scenario.



does it make you wonder what idiot thought that sending these things out to CHILDREN might not be such a good idea?

Great story! You had me laughing and wincing at the same time. I've had ant farms before and had them escape (in a room of first graders) but never been bitten by a farmed ant. It's the red ones outside that I watch out for...

Love that haiku!

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