Artemis by Ashley Mace Havird


Ashley Mace Havird

We had to swerve to miss her.
Tattered mules, blue bathrobe trailing
the pavement, cheese pie half-eaten,
white hair electric in the Sahara winds—
surely she had given the slip to her sitter
in one of the crumbling neoclassical mansions
Artemonas is famous for.

We were hunting the prize of the island,
a wooden icon of Virgin and Child.
(The story pure romance: a golden stream
in the sea, and there, floating,
the miracle—the fishermen blessed.)
On Sifnos, an island that boasts
a blue-domed church “for every day
of the year,” the one was not so easy to find.
But find we finally did. Amid lingering incense,
a gaudy silver panel with holes that yielded
tiny sea-black mummy-faces.

Leaving, we saw her again—this time
for who she was. Dressed as a man,
in boots and cotton work shirt,
trousers bunched at the waist—Artemis
took the center of the one road
from Artemonas to (where else?) Apollonia.
Cigarette clamped between lips,
she was off to complain (it seemed plain)
over a thimbleful of thick coffee
to her brother, that old sun-god.
She has no use for Little Raisin-Face
and her shriveled thumbprint of a Son:
What were they but keyholes in that fancy door?

Why did people seek that virgin, anyway,
with her droning litanies, her suffocating
incense . . . Then again, who could afford
a decent quiver of arrows nowadays?
No game anymore, unless you want pigeon.


About the Author

Ashley Mace Havird’s book of poems, The Garden of the Fugitives (Texas Review Press, 2014), won the 2013 X. J. Kennedy Prize. Her chapbook, Dirt Eaters (2009), won the South Carolina Poetry Initiative Series Prize; and a second chapbook, Sleeping with Animals (2013), was published by Yellow Flag Press of Lafayette, LA. Her poems and short stories have appeared in many journals including Lowestoft Chronicle, Shenandoah, Southern Poetry Review, The Southern Review, and The Virginia Quarterly Review, as well as in anthologies such as The Southern Poetry Anthology, IV: Louisiana (Texas Review Press, 2011) and Hard Lines: Rough South Poetry (University of South Carolina Press, forthcoming). In 2002 she was awarded a Louisiana Division of the Arts Fellowship in Literature. She lives in Shreveport, Louisiana, with her husband, the poet David Havird.