(Cephalotes atratus ant to the Myrmeconema neotropicum worm)
Myrmeconema neotropicum is a nematode that infests South American gliding ants. Once infected, the ant’s small black gaster expands and reddens until it looks like a ripe berry. The ant alters its behavior, foraging further than uninfected ants and elevating its berry-like gaster so a bird is more likely to spot the ant and eat it, continuing the life cycle of the parasite.


You slipped like a breath into my body,

shocked my black bright. Though I’d dreamed

of such singular acknowledgement, I let you beg

for my blessing,  and as your blip of a body

sank into mine, I absorbed your compliments

about work ethic, adaptability, my unparalleled

strength like a memory I’d always wanted to make.


We glided through the thick wet, the air like an ocean,

my legs flared like the freaky wings of a never-been.

I watched my family march into jaws and beaks,

the scent of warning deep in my gut like a famine.


Soon, you moved into my spacious globe

the thin tunnel of your body couldn’t offer.

As you thickened with eggs, leaves pressed veiny

prints on the soles of my feet, and you lounged,

sway-backed and swollen, cozy in my core.


When it was time, you bulbed my gaster

with your thousands, sent it bobbing in a fit of crimson.

They’ll say you made me do it. Lament the loss

of a such a strong worker, claim my contribution

as significant as any. But as I sauntered like a drunk

to the edge of the world, rested my jaw on a leaf,

shoved my ass skyward, I watched myself from the inky orbit,

a miniscule point of light and color,

a solitary offering to the unforgiving expanse.


*written by Kami Westhoff

Elizabeth Vignali is an optician and writer. Her poems have appeared in various publications, including Willow Springs, Crab Creek Review, Nimrod, Floating Bridge Review, and Menacing Hedge. Her chapbook, Object Permanence, is available from Finishing Line Press. She lives in Bellingham, Washington with her daughters, a venerable Chihuahua, and two geriatric cats.

Kami Westhoff’s work has appeared or is forthcoming in various journals including Meridian, Phoebe, Third Coast, Carve, Sundog Lit, decomp, The Pinch, Passages North, Redivider, and West Branch. Her chapbook, Sleepwalker, won Minerva Rising’s Dare to Be Contest in 2016. She teaches Creative Writing at Western Washington University in Bellingham, WA.