The Assignment

examWhen I was fifteen, one of my school assignments for an English class was to write a short story on any subject so I chose to write about the descent into depression and the lifelines that appear in unexpected places. I created a story about a young girl standing on the edge of a black hole with no rabbit in sight and the moment of truth she experienced while watching an ant moving along a leaf. It must have been fairly convincing because it raised concerns among the teaching staff. Once it was clear that I was not writing a diary, but a fictional piece exploring the darker aspects of adolescence, I received my paper back with the standard slashes and circles in red pen. Well, I was fifteen so it was immediately apparent to me that she knew nothing about the possibilities of polar opposites creating a balance and this poem was written in answer.

The ant crawled along a sun dappled leaf

while the abyss yawned



ready to swallow me if I had not learned to fly

if I had not learned to write.



A bright circle smeared with blood coloured ink

surrounded my tiny ant on the leaf.

The note said WATCH THIS!

No one can follow you, it said.

Your vision is too small too abrupt

too singular to make sense.

The ABYSS too large

for them to coexist.

It is too much for the mind to pay attention

to a tiny ant caught in sunlight

when faced with the ABYSS.

I think after all these years

I think

she missed the point.

I think the ant is what kept me SAFE.

My poem. My ballgame. My life.

My thought. My breath.

I will not let you kill the ant


Photo: Filipe Fortes

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