Tag Archives: tattoos

The Girl With The Starbucks Tattoo

It was a beacon of hope, always shining green through the long, hard winter, a steaming oasis rising through the endless snow to thaw her small town heart out. Before the store moved into the old downtown square, she hardly even knew that their could be anything more than the cracking, empty streets, a broken fossil of a faded industry. The idea of somehow leaving town, or doing anything but following in her family’s frozen footsteps, seemed as foreign to her as the rest of the country did, some thousand miles away. These were things she’d only seen on — television when the reception was good and they could still get channels, anyway.

When it finally appeared — when that sign went up, signaling its coming — it heralded an out. She believed herself to be the mermaid, that rare, majestic beauty, a literal and lonely creature lost upon the shore, surrounded instead by an ocean of snow, vast and cold, which numbed the lives around her. But she never even knew that she had fins, that she could swim away, not until she saw that sign rising in the distancer. She was 13 years old then, the loneliest of ages, and as soon as she saw it, she started to study, teaching herself the differences, the meaning of a macchiato, americano, cold press versus hot, and as soon as she turned 16, she strolled into the store, filled out an application, and submitted it on the spot. She hardly ever touched the money that she made. Instead, she saved it, every cent, building up a base for her escape.

She put in a transfer request when she was 18, and the day she finished high school, she hitched a ride in her cousin’s 18-wheeler and changed her life, a bright young mermaid escaping to the greater sea: Anchorage.

Her cousin dropped her off downtown, but before she even found a place to sleep that night, she slipped inside the first tattoo parlor on the strip. She’d never actually seen a shop like that before, not in real life, anyway. When she stepped inside, she was greeted by a league of fantastical creatures not unlike herself, exotic breeds who’d wandered from their native tribes and made themselves a brand new home. Endangered species, just like her. And so she wanted a symbol, to brand her scar her skin to show her small-town struggle and begin the transformation, taking that which was within and projecting it without. She thought back to that day when she first saw the sign, before she truly understood what it meant, what it would come to mean, and she rolled up her sleeve and offered up the first sacrifice from her savings account and the man with the oversized earlobes pulled out his magic pen, buzzing with the vitriol of a billion angry bees, and painted that green mermaid on her skin and when he finished she could finally feel her fins begin to grow.

How To Be Yourself Without Really Trying

Caleb always wanted to be
himself, and from a young age
he was promised he could
be just that, as long as he
put his mind to such an act.
He thought so long and
hard about how best to be
himself, and when he finally came
of age, he set his mind to
make it happen. He focused
on himself — in the mirror,
on the page — to discover what was
he and what was not. So off
he set, in search of his new
self, starting from the sides
and working in. His arms,
he felt, were wiry and weak, with
hairy hands as DNA had deemed.
He bought a brand new pair — more
muscular, with darker skin, a shade
to match his life — and sewed them
at the sockets into place. He then
removed his legs, as they were
never fast enough, and replaced
them with a set of treads
to ride across the rough terrain
of life. Soon he had covered his
torso in hard olive scales
to protect him from the piercing
blades of those who would usurp
his trove. But something still was
missing, and his mind, he felt,
was weak, so he supplanted his own
head and gave Him that of a machine,
with proper calculations fueled
by terahertz of speed. Comfort quickly
overcame him in his current state,
and finally he felt more He than he
had ever been. Still others could not
see Him underneath the He that he’d
become, so he mended his heart with
hardened stone, and finally felt
free to be the He he’d longed to be.

Waiting On A Friend

So
I’m  seated in a
bright red booth at
an Italian joint, the
waitress, lovely,
small tee

with small sleeves
ruffled at the
shoulder showing
her
bright red tattoo

Red like the booth

in the shape of a
heart, filled in and
fist-sized,

She dips politely,
sets the menu
down with a smile
saying they have
specials, and an
all-day happy hour,

She turns, I see
her other
tattoo,
a
colorful
flower,

And the downtown traffic
walks by,
with stars in their
eyes or a story to
tell,

And the music
swells, old pop
songs from a time
almost gone,

And I wonder
some more
About the girl with
her heart on her
sleeve,

What does she do
when she leaves,
What does she
believe?

That the world
sees her there
with her heart on
her sleeve,

And a tray in her
hand like a
testament to her
quest, her body,
advertising at its
best, telling all who
would look
That ful-
fillment lie
Next to her
breast?

And I
forget
About the rest
as the food
arrives and I widen
my eyes and
I eat and I leave
and feeling
naive, I
wonder how long
I’ll wonder about
the girl with her
heart on her
sleeve.

Redaguerrotyping

She had tattoos of photographs. It was the first thing I noticed. And they weren’t Polaroids either. But her body art was framed like pictures, mostly in landscape, collage’d across her calf like a scrapbook. Frozen slivers of light and time, divided by the rule of thirds. You could tell that whoever took the originals knew a thing or two about composition. Or was it the artist who arranged the images in just that way? I thought perhaps that they were photographs that she had taken as a child with a cardboard Kodak camera. The pictures came out sloppy, clumsy, but the memories were true. In this way they were immortalized with the Lichtensteinian precision of a needle by a steady hand. These instants that once left their scars within her, now scarred her from without. Sure, the details of the moments may have changed as she looked back at them, but they were frozen now the way she knew them, the way she wanted them to be. If the pictures changed in the translation from celluloid to ink, did the moments change, too? Did her memories, or more, like a butterfly in time? Did the essence, or the purpose of the pictures change? Once they were honest and real, specific instants of light, captured and kept and then brought back to life in a chemical bath. Now in this new medium, they had become something else entirely. Did the tattoo artist play the role of translator, or adaptor? Both rely heavily on interpretation — it becomes his perception of her moments, of her memories. Of her life. The back of her leg had become a strip of film, unrolled and exposed, and I couldn’t help but wonder where the negatives were, and what they looked like in their sepia tinge. I tried to read their story the way that I read comics, a sequential narrative postulated in the panels, but she walked away too quickly and so the page was turned. I finished my lunch and went back to work.

Bad Rainbow

She bled black like bad rainbow
Skinny wrist cut skinny still
Ink colored back slash black back pack stuffed pack
Pretty pills make her pretty still
She dance none but one more bad rainbow made her black
She cut ink pen on skin like steel spike just right
Just wrong just off but not off center off kilter
Light filtered through broken glass painted black made bad rainbow but not quite
Dead tree bleeds black leaves
Weep willow weep leaves black leaves tears leave black smears on a notebook page
Like balled fist rage like animal caught cage like older without age
And still she’s so still
She smiles dark sky almost black eye liner with finer lines traced countless times
Colored wrist map like skinny waist covered skinny belt buckle 
Skinny like sideways head cracked wide
Bleed out slow like bad rainbow blood
Good comes from nothing for nothing but bad rainbow stains like always
Roots rot quick like hollow trunk thick
Burrow home hurry back bury one in the sack
Like your bag brim stuffed with pretty pills give tiny thrills make giants ills never pretty still
She painted black on grey white yellow paper typed strong word like flutter hard fast night bird
But dark star heart broke black and shattered bleak again
So black sky moon shines bad rainbow on the roof
And still she’s so still because pretty pills make her pretty ill

I loved her from the moment I met her, but I can’t contain her bad rainbow and I don’t know what else to do.