I swam next to a man with the most amazing map tattoo and I wished I had one too… this poem needs a bit of pruning but here it is nonetheless.
to my mother,
Why Tattoos are Glorious, and Why I’ll Never have One.
A tattoo is a scar you’ve always known,
A chosen mark only you could see
Until, of course, you carved it there
waiting until you were ready.
A tattoo is a definition of self. An expression of soul.
A deep cut to the marrow of me to see what’s underneath.
Better than a job or a school or a hobby
The lobby of my skin could be the great Gatsby of my life
In Technicolor, in black light, in white ink like lace.
Men with tattoos are attractive.
The bigger the blot the better. It’s a commitment,
A promise to the idea that even in a score, that scar
Will mean something visceral, even if he outgrows the literal
He can commit to a work of art, so he can commit to me.
If I matter enough, if I fit on his skin.
It’s a trust fall with an artist, and you hope they knew
What you meant meant meant, but you’ll only see when
We all see, and even then it’s yours.
You put your body under a knife,
a doctor makes clumbsier cuts.
But a tattoo is every inch a masterpiece,
and you a careless canvass.
The body, poor brute, will buckle with time, no doubt.
But I love my throat and thighs as they are mine,
No removing them when they are less than my seventeen self.
No plucking up the lines of my eyes when I tire.
We will wrinkle, and so will the mind, whether I keep
It cranial or wear it wristside.
I’ll never have a tattoo Mom, because you would feel failed.
You might write me off as a hippy or a hipster or a fool.
And in my whole life of secret tattoo envy,
I’m too afraid to choose a symbol of my own.
Not fanatic enough a fan, not clever enough a keeper
Of my secret scar.
And what if I hated it…