Artemis Drifting

Just because she tippietoes, doesn't mean she's a creepin'.


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Absurdity once again strikes, needling me in the back of the head when I’m positive it’s cold enough outside to reassure me that reality is some serious business.

Not that I’m saying having my nose frozen is a good indicator that we’re not our own illusion, but the helplessness we suffer over the involuntary nose dripping does give pause to one’s confidence in our own control over bodily functions.

I think of the way I titter at permanent markings – the wobbly inked tattoos, grossly stretched piercings and keloid scars of enraged youths.  Doubtlessly, these people confront their decorations every day – whether by mirror, rolling up a sleeve or the second-look-head-snap of a gawker.  

What do I got?  Hypocritical hoops.  Twin bands of metal that wrap around my all too large left ear, capture beads securing them from any spontaneous itch to remove.  One, to love – the other to contain love.  The steel has become fingers in my lifebloods stream, doing what they can to slow the furious rush down just a knot or two.

But the most important reminder is the triangle of twisted white flesh at the base of my thumb, the raised blemish that has been with me for over thirteen years.  The day Otis died, when my flustered parents did all they could to shield me from his mangled body, all my concentration – truly – was on the last thing he ever gave me.  It was a gouge from his dew claw, where he jumped up onto my hips and danced with his thick mottled paw pads between my naked bony feet.  I went to push him down and then away in disgust once his eagerness left my skin split and blood running.

He was gone when the wound was still raw and angry.  He was rotting, his fat fuzzy belly distending and straining as my cut knitted and scabbed.  So I began to scratch, like I could sink my own hands into Alabama red clay and rescue him from the worms.  I pulled at the scab, I traded neosporin for lemon juice and salt.  As the maggots found their way around the deflating orbs of his eyes, skating across the foggy lenses – my cut filled with the sap of scar tissue.

Otis, the absurdity is this.  I did so much, and so little, to remember you – but in the end, the very process that consumed you and I fought to never forget will take me too.  I will become a viscous puddle of cells, and maybe, one day, the wound no one will want to disappear.


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Beautiful boys have a way of making even the ugly things they do bearable by the adorable symmetry of their smile.

My science teacher had a fondness for injured wildlife — all but bunnies that is, and if you have any familiarity with trying to save baby wild rabbits, you’d know why.  A student had brought in an injured barn owl that my teacher had taken great pains to bring to full health.  I remember peeking over the tattered rim of the cardboard box, smelling the pungent scraps of trashed blankets that how now become its bedding.  It was a beautiful animal, but I was at the age where I still refused to be star struck by even the simplest of pleasures in life.

When it came time to release the owl, our class trooped out across the soccer field and around the newly steam-rolled tennis courts.  The outskirts of my campus led deep into the woods, and there honestly wasn’t a better spot to release the animal that the students could appreciate it without having to buss’em out to the wild yonder.  Frankly, we were already there.

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When most children are palm wet with excitement at penning their own name and learning to corral their jerky little movements into BIG BLOCK LETTERS – I really hated it.

Hello, have a piece of me.

It seemed to say.

I hate personalizing things.  I break into a cold sweat at personal gifts.  I’m not an ancient egyptian reborn, I assure you, but for awhile I did not think I could handle the fingers and toes of my well intentioned friends.

I left most of my journals unsigned, more than a fair lot of my poems untitled, and arguably all of them hidden for the duration of the rash that came after creation.  I made and then itched and was absolutely not well enough to deal with the repercussions to my big ol’ mouth.  

I can tell you one thing, writing the poem about the bloodied all-seeing Jesus on the cross who is severely disappointed in you and YOU and YOU was something my sixth grade teacher caught the rash on.  Maybe it was about the gore.  Or even the tender care given to the way gore-flesh flutters in a healthy downward stream of blood like watercress.  Either way, it was bad news.

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What’s an apologetic?

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Dear Whosawhatsis,

I would like to write about a few things that have occurred to me that I’ve overlooked.  Or ignored.  The latter is far more likely.

So I’m thinkin’.  There’s quite a few people I don’t communicate with on the sole principle that they’ve gone and pissed off the few people I care about.  Well, some of them have done a little more then pissin’ on absorbent berber.  That’s asides the point.  I don’t talk to them out of the bloody rule in the south that you don’t go buddying up to knuckleheads that have reamed your kinfolk.  

It’s a rough realization knowing that behavior can be likened to sheets of metal pounded in over storm windows during a hurricane.  We do an awful lot to keep our honor intact.  I walk away the instant I feel someone’s looking down their nose at me, or curling their lip in some smarmy gear-up for a ‘verbose bashin’.  

Then I’m partway down the sidewalk with my pride, honor and dignity and I’m struck still by the frozen smile of the maid halfway down the stairs to a stately home.  The homeowner is irate, slinging insults in such a way that they were her embodied frustrations slimed up into little leeches.  Really  no other way to put it, the lady had a bad day and she was flickin’ leeches at the maid holding about fifty pounds of laundry on her way out to figure out how she was going to get the merlot stains out of those 500 thread monstrosities. 

She damn well stood there.  Smiling.  Listening to the ranting, raving, her eyelashes not even fluttering when the sticky bodies of pent up bitterness bounced off her weathered cheeks.  I’m thinking, if I was there, I’d be up those stairs feeding the lady that premium manure she more than likely insists on ordering for her goofy looking porch plants.

But you know what?  I don’t got nothing to lose.

That worker does.  She’s smilin’ because she’s ten times braver then I am.  She’s a hundred times more patient than I.  All she’s got to do is smile, lower her eyes and get into her car that don’t got more then 10k left on it’s sputtering corpse.  Because you know what?  She’s taking that pay check home.  Her kid is going to get lunches at school, her bills are going to get paid and they won’t be eating out of the bean-crock for another week.  

So I’m sitting here and thinkin’ guys .. I’m coming to the conclusion I don’t really know what honor or dignity is.  I don’t know.  

And I’m willing to bet, you don’t either.


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In my friendships, it was the union of our mutual griefs and joys that brought tears to our cheeks. Hot, sticky – with rolling breath filling in the fleshy caverns between.

It was cold when I laid beside the numerous pits in the rock floor, my fingers exploring the grooves within. Above me, in this cave, were explosions of wet fauna seeking to lattice downward and veil me into this cave. Here, my fingers bruised and bloody, I feel the women so far back pouring sweat from their temples as basket after basket of rough root or dried corn into paste for substance. In these intricate notches, I wonder when they went to gather the remnants of a days work – do they sweep them to the center of a pit without another thought or do their calloused fingertips gather the grainy discharge to the center of their bone-dry palms.

Rediscovery- the face that so many years was a sewing needle distance from your own, suddenly thrust into a world. I say a world – because I have no right to break it down. It was simply somewhere other, a place that the sun was left to simply skim over the dense fogs and the swollen rain clouds above. 

Some of us, that day would be the most marvelous of natures wonders. For others, like myself, my soul climbs, leaps, flies to the very point of the needle – and with one great big breath – scatters it all, so those young gents and gentlewomen can throw their heads back and see the true stars – dying messages, infant sparkles, the sky so blue that it urges those who would seek more to find that stone of cobalt blue within themselves. The sky, the stars, they do not attempt to reach you to impart a message. They reach towards you to find a comrade, a brother – because as you use the skies to see their extraordinary powers – their abilities see the budding galaxy within us all.


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They say being unable to acknowledge insanity is a sign that one is truly insane.

But in the twilight of madness, there must be some sort of acknowledgement. Before the sun sets entirely, can man finally turn to see the shadow that has followed him for so long?

She can’t bear to turn around.

Instead she looks at the knobs of her wrists. Skeletal, the bones are winter trees on an empty skyline. Her fingers do not lay, they crouch. Bruises mottle her skin because she cannot bare to watch herself reach out to grasp what she needs, the very action reminds her of reanimated corpses clawing their way to air they do not need.

Her pores leak shadows, becoming beginnings of inky umbilical cords unfurling away from her body. Soon they will find their way into the moldering bodies of her ancestors, and between them, spark life into dormant genes.

Do you know what Unjust really is?

As much as I want to spin it into being a story of redemption, a collection of therapy sessions – it really is only about grief.

It is a lament of the generational curse, one of which none of us have ever been able to escape.

We die standing, we die in institutions, we die in secrets – hidden away in the many held breaths of those who still survive.

But still we breed.

Because what crawls behind our eyes will always need more.


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Chagrin, she tells herself. It’s all about chagrin.

She finally understands the insistence of philosophers on human absurdity.

But she stands on the edge of the roof in ill-fitting stone washed jeans. The waistband is a vague gesture at her hipbone, those which cut like shark fins.

The wind picks up and her hair becomes a forest of chestnut kelp. It runs with wild abandon along her exposed ankles and billows her awkwardly cut sleeves.

She closes her eyes and turns her face toward the sun, the light burning through to create a bloody horizon. She thought if she refused the nipple at birth, her mouth screwed shut – she could avoid being tethered to this world.

The infant had become a woman who had been fed the lies of choice. Each choice was to be a step upward to freedom and enlightenment. The Ballot was to instill in her confidence that her opinions could change the world. The Degree to certify her knowledge. They turned her over and on her blank skin inked in nine numbers.

Curling her toes, she feels the sandy surface of the shingles biting between callouses. Her childhood games were preparation for adulthood. Play correctly and you will be rewarded. She was told that the wicked would be punished for cheating and her revenge handled by authorities. The reward for staying beneath the skirt was unthinking joy. They regarded the power of the human spirit with the same respect of as the urge to empty ones bladder. Uncontrollable, yet able to be channeled through the proper facilities with societal suggestion. Emotions now had labeled wastebaskets. The psychiatrists bin for madness, the doctors bin for sadness, and the jail bin for guiltlessness.

She touches the hollow of her neck and opens her eyes, her irises becoming silver wire in a mere heartbeat. The light swallowed her as she pitched her body forward, hands like starfish in the sky.

Forward did not indicate necessarily the empty stories of air beneath her, nor the solid safety of the roof behind her.

The one choice she found that they could not teach or steal from her was love.

And to her, it never really was a choice at all.

What was most important to her came like heat lightning in the summer’s haze. And try as they might, love was a hurricane they could not blow away. Still now, they plot, to break up vapors in the sky. But if love does not come as a raging storm, it will be the stream’s chilly current at your calf. And if they block the flow, it will always find a way to gallop through the bloodstream and straight to the heart.

Absurdity, she thinks, is the way they say head over heels. They want love to sound foolish. But she knows if she keeps her eyes on the sun, every direction is up.

Those stairs are real.

Those stairs go somewhere.

Find your staircase in the sky.

Stray Cat Strut.

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She buried her face in the crook of her elbow. Eyelashes sticky with tears and gummy from mascara fluttered like the wings of a dying bird against her skin.

She did not close her eyes.

The back drop fell away, crashing to the ground thunderously. The vibration shot painfully up her shins and stayed behind her kneecaps like troublesome nettles.

It did not matter where she went, for moments after arriving, everything around her would leave her behind.

Seconds before she had been surrounded by trendy, cheaply made clothing that hung from sari-wrapped walls. Hermit crabs twitched nervously in painted shells, shying from the tender fingertips of inquisitive children.

The music overhead was an eccentric blend of East Asia and techno. Only the continuous, hard and insistent beat of the drum soothed her. It was the only thing that felt human in this place. Everything else was coated in a thin shell of plastic, hardened chemicals from fast industry lines. Insides were bits and pieces of children that never got to play with hermit crabs. Children that would grow up with legs bowed and spines hardened like an arthritic fist.

Grief tore at her, but could not possess her. It reached, but could not grip, the stickers that announced discounted prices muffled its screams.

Inside everything was a story, but they were all stories she could not tell. They were butterflies she could not catch. Some of them would stay with her long enough that she could memorize the rainbow sprawl of their wings. Others the half second flash of a fishtail during dusk. Either way, eventually, always, they left her.

So like the stray cat, she wandered in and out of scenery. She tried to hurry before the walls fell. She tried to run before the sound of their papery wings alerted her to the next departure. She was second look, second best, the chalky line from where anxious runners began.

Carefully, she stepped over the broken habitat of the crabs, waded waist deep through poorly translated buddhist wall scrolls and onto the next scene.

No one stapled her blurry visage to light-posts.

Her first name was After, her last name was Thought.


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Keith rubbed his calloused fingertips on the inside of his wrist. “I understand.”

He watched her look away. She braced her hands on the rail, watching the dark river below hurry by.

“I’m a lot to handle. I’m needy. I never thought I’d be saying that.” Keith bowed his head, making no move to brush his bangs away from his eyes. He only watched her through the tangled strands.

“But … I am. You’re living your dream. I just wish …”

She interrupted him without turning around, “Wish what?”

Keith smiled morosely, “That I was a part of it.”

“I want to be alone, you know that.”

He winced at the reply and then lolled his head back, pupils shrinking at the bright street lights hanging over him. His eyes were wet and the yellow halos surrounding the lamps seemed solid enough to touch. “I know.”

She went silent, hunching her shoulders forward.

Running his tongue over his teeth, he spoke. “I just want one thing, Waya.”

“What’s that?”

Keith settled his hands on the seat beneath him and pushed up to his feet. He strode to her, then stopped beside the woman and folded his arms on top of the rail. Lifting his chin, he looked out over the river and to the opposite shore. Lights winked on in cosy homes there. Stars nestled amongst trees.

“If you’re going to be alone, I want to be the last person who’s ever kissed you.”

From the corners of his eyes, a red haze beat relentlessly. He could have mistaken them for curtains.


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She laid her head back onto the ground, leaves crackling beneath the heavy mane of her hair. Calmly, she laced her fingers together and rested them over her navel. The sky was out of focus and the towering trees above drew the attention of her eyes. It would be easy to push herself up, dig her calloused fingers into knotty bark and ascend up waist-thick tree limbs to the very top. She could go above and have the entire sky opened to her. The wind would, undoubtedly, comb through her hair and pull free the husks of autumn. There, she could see everything – the lethal grace of predators stalking frenzied prey, to the miniscule movement of chilled ferns unfurling to catch the last replenishing rays of summer.

However, at this moment, she was perfectly content to lay flat on her back and feel the plush rise of moss pushing into the lumbar curve of her spine. Violet closed her eyes, feeling crisp wind rob heat from the surface of her skin. It made her grow all the more still, and the only way she could part her consciousness from the earth before was with the continuous beat of her heart. She did not bother to tune her ears to the tiny lives scurrying in the undergrowth, no more than one tries to concentrate on a particular drip in a damp cave. It all rushed over her, within her and around her. This was certainly all real enough, but she felt the same unsettled ache of longing as Adam did within the garden. There was plenty enough in the forest to keep her occupied, but it was never enough to fulfill her deepest desire.
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