The Lost Country

Fall 2015 • Vol. 4, No. 1

issn 2326-5310 (online)

Playing Dead

By Pernille Larsen

This work was published in the Fall 2015 issue of The Lost Country. You may purchase a copy of this issue from us or, if you prefer, from Amazon.

“Oh, the world owes us a livin’”

Hop from The Grasshopper and the Ants (1934)

                      Once I licked at a scorpion
stuck inside a clear square
      of lollipop – the week’s treat
    wrapped separately and enclosed
            with the Donald Duck magazine.
I stopped before reaching the black body,
      feared it might wriggle back to life
    after days of being confined
            in cyan blue syrup.
                      When I was a child,
death was only a trick.
      In cartoons, you could hit yourself over the head
    with a stone mallet, stiffen and lean
            MJ-style against the air,
but bounce back in seconds
      for the perennial cat and mouse.
    You could climb back up from the chasm
            your immortal enemy pushed you into
with a few thorns to your smooth duck rump.
                      Each Christmas, I watched the grasshopper
fiddle through life, so utterly unprepared
      for winter. He keeled over
    into a mound of snow,
            only to be rescued
by ants who soaked his frost-blue legs
      in buckets of hot water,
    spoon-fed him soup until he grew
            green again. He learned his lesson,
changed his tune.
                      As I got older, I stopped playing dead.
      No more sprawling on the couch
    liked a dried-out starfish.
       No more tongue-lolling.
       No more ketchup-wounds.
            My grandmother’s heart stopped
and she fell off her bike.
            My grandfather got stomach cancer
and forgot who I was. By now,
                      I know everyone owes the world
a death as much as a living.
      Still, it saddened me a little
            to discover Walt Disney’s cryogenic
preservation is a myth.
                      It wasn’t just the loss of spectacle—
                                                      a bluish tint to his skin
                                                                  encrusted in slushy ice crystals—
                                    because I froze again
                                                            knowing there is no way to dodge
                                                                                                            the dropping anvil.