An old girlfriend would always write on my skin,
in blue or black ink. We both knew she was destined
to be a tattoo artist, though she never would admit it.
Little yin-yangs, tulips, messages like why
are you so nervous, or decisive, or spontaneous.
I let her write a poem down my spine
with a sharp black ball point,
and never found out what it said. It used to tickle
so much that she would get mad at me
for ruining the shapes. I got used to it though,
when the skin art became our ritual of afterplay,
and we kept a pen on the table beside the bed.
When she drew a stick figure angel
in between two little clouds on my thigh,
I took the pen from her and scribbled
“Don’t fake orgasms”
on her rib cage.
Eventually we broke up
because the ink was soaking in and poisoning
the whims, revealing that we didn’t really love
each other. Years later I walked into her tattoo
parlor, on a side street in Chicago.
She smiled to see that I had tracked her down,
but put a finger to my lips. She sat me down
without a word and began stabbing my forearm
with her little machine. When she was done
there was an intricate human heart, that
you could almost see beating,
colorless and real. It hurt more than I’d expected.
“Don’t worry about the girls,” she said,
“Anyone who can’t understand that
doesn’t deserve you.”
"For all that has been, thanks; to all that will be, yes." -Dag Hammarskjold