Umbrella’s lighter offshoot

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What Do Lemmings Want?

by Antonia Clark

Lemmings aren’t suicidal after all. Thanks mainly to faked footage of migrating lemmings hurtling en masse over a cliff in the 1958 Disney documentary, "White Wilderness," it has been believed for decades that the tiny Arctic rodents have an inborn death wish.—Science, October, 2003

We’ve never been suicidal, after all.
For half a century, we’ve borne the shame
of jokes and jeers attached to our good name.
You say we’re mindless, our lifestyle deplorable.
Let’s set things straight: we’re small and furry, shrewd,
gregarious, and—dare I say adorable?
We make good pets and don’t mind gerbil food.

We’ve never been suicidal, after all.
We’re herbivores, hard workers, awfully clever,
eluding fox, owl, wolverine—whoever
likes lemming lunches. What we do en masse
is migrate, seeking creature comforts:  trees,
ripe berries, tender shoots and leaves, sweet grass,
more economic opportunities.

We’ve never been suicidal. It was all
a cinematic hoax. Even as they clung
to life, our hapless ancestors were flung
into a crevasse, a cold abyss.
O cruel fate! O unfathomable notion!
O fiendish minds that ever conjured this
death-wish dive, this leap into the ocean.

We’ve never been suicidal. Not at all.
Let the work of Hollywood connivers
fade to obscurity. We are survivors!
We want better PR and a new story.
We’re ready, waiting for our curtain call—
to take a bow, bask in a moment of glory.
We’ve never been suicidal, after all.



Antonia Clark is a medical writer for a medical software company in Burlington, Vermont. She has previously published short stories and essays, and has taught creative writing in community college and adult education programs; currently she is co-administrator of an online poetry forum, The Waters. Her poems have appeared, or are forthcoming, in The Pedestal Magazine, kaleidowhirl, Rattle, Stirring and Tipton Poetry Journal.