“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.