Emily Pérez

          One rare visit, grandmother Dorothy
teaches me the word "abscond."
          A portion of her sandwich hits the floor

where the cat, that selfish hunter, mouths it quickly,
          "absconding with the turkey."
Outdoors, I show her the mass migration of ants.

          A day's irrigation floods their homes,
and we wade ankle-deep, indifferent to the deluge.
          Hordes raft to safety on stray branches, transmit

silent signals to those beyond the water's lip,
          who scrabble further afield to beat disaster,
heads laden with leaves, eggs, what they've salvaged

          of their nest's essential infrastructure.
My grandmother Dorothy lets slip an oh!
          of delight, she may even clap her tiny hands.

Before her, this family: a finely tuned machine,
          working in concert toward survival, struggling
to save its queen.



These days only farmers in my hometown are allowed to use flood irrigation. But when I was a child, we would irrigate the yard regularly. My brother and I would build dams and channels in the water and send our GI Joes downstream on makeshift boats. A few Joes capsized and drowned—lost forever to the leaves and mud. Imagine our surprise when years later our cat left a gift on the back porch—Wild Bill's legs!