Poetry Fiction 2009

Fire Ants

Squatting in the coppery mud of the drainage ditch
behind my cousin’s house, we searched for fish,
saw none. We found a speckled frog instead,
unspooling a long, gelatinous thread
of black eggs in the water. Then fire ants—
my feet a blaze of pain, a fumbling dance,
and fact and memory begin to stutter.
What happened next? What curses did I utter?
And how did I ever get back over the fence?

I remember having a kind of reverence
for the whole affair: the pity I got, each bite
growing large and lustrous as a pearl, my tight
and swollen toes. I must have liked the pain.
What else would make me prod again, again?
A whole week hobbling barefoot on the lawn,
and still I missed the welts when they were gone.

Presented by

Chelsea Rathburn’s first collection of poems, The Shifting Line, received the Richard Wilbur Award in 2005. She lives in Decatur, Georgia.

A New York City Minute, Frozen in Time

This wildly inventive short film takes you on a whirling, spinning tour of the Big Apple

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register with Disqus.

Please note that The Atlantic's account system is separate from our commenting system. To log in or register with The Atlantic, use the Sign In button at the top of every page.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

A New York City Minute, Frozen in Time

This short film takes you on a whirling tour of the Big Apple

Video

What Happened to the Milky Way?

Light pollution has taken away our ability to see the stars. Can we save the night sky?

Video

The Faces of #BlackLivesMatter

Scenes from a recent protest in New York City

Video

Ruth Bader Ginsburg on Life

The Supreme Court justice talks gender equality and marriage.

Video

The Pentagon's $1.5 Trillion Mistake

The F-35 fighter jet was supposed to do everything. Instead, it can barely do anything.

More in Entertainment

More back issues, Sept 1995 to present.

Just In