Artemis never makes a sound as she slips through sleeping goldenrod and dog violets. Twigs and leaves hold their peace until she passes on her way to claim her kill. Artemis is the gleaming edge of a knife, the twang of a loosed arrow, the retort of a perfect shot in the night. Those who hunt with Artemis could be jealous, but what would be the point?
if Artemis aims at
the river, bow drawn, wildflowers wavering at her ankles
or the sound in the doorway, knife ready, wildflowers limp on the table
or the moving shape ahead, rifle shouldered, wildflowers tucked behind an ear
and moonlight is absorbed into the darkness of her bare arms
then Orion dies.
Orion never makes a sound when he travels alongside Artemis, whom he can always hear and smell, can always sight. Orion has never tried to thread his fingers into those of Artemis, or to press himself along the sharp, narrow edge of her body until his skin splits open to reveal his heart. Hunting together, their steps are one silent movement through the phlox and wild wheat.
if Orion, aiming his beauty at Artemis, waits
in the river, with water rippling around his shoulders
or in the doorway, with water dripping from his hair
or in the dark, with water rolling off his waxed jacket
and moonlight careens off the bright white of his wrist
then Orion dies.
Apollo never makes a sound as he follows his sister. The iron-hot scent that clings to his clothes and hands gives him away, and she welcomes him, a finger to her lips. Apollo loves the way the bounty of his sister’s affection is an offering placed in his hands alone, and is afraid that Orion would pull her apart like some carcass, and that, after devouring her heart, he would discard the bones.
if Apollo, with a smile, points
at a shape in the river, and hands Artemis her bow
or at Orion in the doorway, and hands Artemis her knife
or at the movement ahead, and gestures at his sister’s rifle
and moonlight pales in the light of his golden arms
then Orion dies.
Apollo asks Artemis, “That little patch of light there—do you see it?”
Orion is aimed at Artemis, heart drawn tight in the string, heart sharp, heart loaded and cocked. He will let fly as soon as he is closer, as soon as he can see Artemis fully silhouetted in the light of Apollo.
Apollo better aims Artemis and says, “I bet you can’t hit it in the center.”
“Of course I can. I never miss.”
Orion prepares, steadies his nerves, but Artemis fires first, teeth bared.
She was always the better hunter.
*Imagine a painting. Maybe it hangs in the corridor of a small library. Most likely the
*frame is black, not ornate. In it: a girl. Her eyes are clear and focused, her hair pulled
*back into neat braids. She wears a loosely draped toga and sandals that come up to her
*knees. Her bow is held aloft, drawn, but not too tightly. Wildflowers, better painted than
*the girl, drift beautifully around her ankles. Overhead, the sun gleams, a yellow perhaps
*much brighter than you would have chosen, and in it you believe you can see the hint, or
*rather there is an impression, almost a feeling really, of a jealous face. In the amateur
*flow of the river, there is almost a movement that could be a head full of dark curls,
*rather than enthusiastic ripples. The longer you look, the more convinced you are that
*blood already stains the point of the arrow, in a prophetic way. When you tell friends
*about the painting you will sometimes remember the bow as a knife or a rifle. You will
*be adamant about each version. And even if you are incorrect about the weapon, you
*have never forgotten the certainty of her gaze, this youthful Artemis. “Stop,” you have
*always wanted to tell her, “Wait!”