I was recently on a video conference call when someone admired the painting behind me and asked me about its origin. I told her that I had painted it. She started asking me questions about how long I had been painting and where I learned to paint. I explained that…

I was walking through a terminal in O’Hare Airport when I saw her walking towards me with her mother. She couldn’t have been more than five. Her tiny chin was raised and each step she took made her sneakers light up like a Christmas tree. She wore a cape and…

When I was barely old enough to construct a proper sentence, I declared that I wanted to be a writer. My mother treated my declaration with respect and gave me the grandest thing she could. She set up a workspace in the corner of the living room of our tiny…

The past two years of my life have been a series of deaths. Some literal, others metaphoric. It began with the sudden death of my 44-year old nephew, my sister’s only son. Three months later, my brother died in an accident, my mother’s only son. Eleven months after that, my…

Original abstract by Ann marie Houghtailing Instagram trailsnotpaths

There are days I want to wander in the loss
I want to meander through the death toll
And let the waves of those who are gone
Wash over me like a sacred prayer
I do not believe in

Death is not the only thief
Time takes too
It takes your good…

Art by Ann marie Houghtailing

They were always in packs
Loose-limbed with curved spines
And a gait like a hyena

Their thick, pink tongues
Wagged with threats and desire
I escaped packs of hyenas every day when I was just a girl

No one tore me open
No one murdered my future self


I filled my wounds with dirt from the garden
And dressed them with heavy paint
Applied in brutally bold colors on a sanitary white canvas

Words were good too
I placed them in gaping holes
I ate them like medicine
I wrapped them around me like an ancient blanket


My mother dug the uncooked rice from my uncle’s bloody knees
With tenderness and a safety pin
He kneeled on the rice holding rocks the size of cantaloupes
With arms out-stretched
Like a penitent

He and my mother were just hungry
So they went to the cemetery
Making a hammock of their…

Photo by Paul Padgett


The hot, wet whisper of death
Is always on my neck

It came into the world with me
I almost died before I took my first breath
They thought my mother would die too

Instead I howled
My arrival into the world
With a pink fist raised in…

PERFECT by Ann marie Houghtailing Instagram TrailsnotPaths

She wore a cape
And a tutu
And light up sneakers
And a crown
And a smile as wide as possibility

She walked through the airport
Like she owned it

She couldn’t have been more than five

She was filled with confidence
And purpose
And certainty about her place in the world…

Ann Marie Houghtailing

Ann marie Houghtailing is the co founder of Story Imprinting, a communications firm that teaches clients the art and science of storytelling.

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