Muscadine Lines: A Southern Journal

A Painter's Ghost

Clifford K. Watkins, Jr.

***Excerpt from NEW NOVELLA***

The drifter carries a small shovel to dig his own grave
he stands eerily beside a gravel road
unable to measure his soul
having fled his life on the path to freedom that he never finds
he never escapes his mind
the labyrinth inside
dirt descends from his hourglass hands into a shallow hole
he knows everything
yet wants nothing
he displays his scars to remind himself that he was once alive
he impales himself with invisible knives
and hurls himself into a unmarked grave
as a random stranger oozes from his eyes

hello god
goodbye devil

I'm the drifter
walking into the sun
ready to vanish like singing skulls rolling into oblivion
and tomorrow
no one remembers him

Staring into a four-paned window, watching the children walk across the trestle, a boy gathered seven flat stones and gave them faces with a broken green crayon. He arranged the rocks in a specific order: from largest to small. He counts the rocks using his fingers and realizes that one is missing. Although the faces would probably appear similar to an onlooker, each one was distinct in the child's mind. Sitting on the concrete slab beneath a passing train, the boy picked up each stone, one at a time and gave them names. The sun-warmed concrete vibrated long after the train faded into a memory. Staring into the sun, witnessing a million tomorrows, the rocks began to pulsate and breathe. In the distance, a large stranger walked slowly across the sleepers, carrying a small shovel, favoring his right leg.

At about three in the morning, the silent echoes of a large stranger walking on the sleepers woke Painter Andrews from a bizarre dream. He remembered seeing an old woman in a room full of wig heads, painting a girl's face in the light of a music box. Feeling somewhat parched, he went into the kitchen to get a drink of water. As the water slowly ran, he stood with his fingers under the faucet waiting for the temperature to drop because someone had forgotten to fill the ice trays. He filled a glass of water and drank it down in one fell swoop. As he walked across the splintered floor, a chill ran up his spine and the phone began to ring. The hair on his neck stood up as he walked toward the phone. By the time he answered the phone, his heart was racing and his hands were trembling wet. He stood looking at his crippled left hand, shaking his head, trying to remember the rest of the dream.


Clifford K. Watkins, Jr., is a writer/poet/lyricist/rapper originally from High Point, North Carolina. Some of his publishing credits include: Underground Window, Endzville, Infinite Glass, Prism Quarterly, Cynic Magazine, Seeker Magazine, Oracular Tree, Poetic Voices, Ygdrasil, Poetry Stop, Zygote In My Coffee, Wildchild Publishing, Forever Underground Magazine, Muscadine Lines, Poet's Haven, Lit Vision, Interpoetry, Canopic Jar, Winamop, Long Story Short, TM Poetry, The Toe Tree Journal, The Persistent Mirage, A Darker Vision, Emptiness Spills, Red Fez, Words Words Words, Vain Glory, The Voyager, Tears For Eternity, and Green Brier Review.

A Painter's Ghost is Clifford's first novella: a nonstop psychological thriller told from a drifter's unique perspective--a four-pane window. Purchase at

© Clifford K. Watkins, Jr.

Muscadine Lines: A Southern Journal ISSN 1554-8449, Copyright © 2004-2012