“Lament of the Tattoo Artist”

Read "Lament of the Tattoo Artist", a tattoo poem.

Abstractions I can easily depict —
for faith, a cross or star; for peace,
a dove; for justice, scales; for love, a heart.
Beyond that, I can act the part of priest,
wedding you for life with the creature
of your choice — prick your shoulder
till eagle talons grasp it; make a lion
pace across your back; call a wren
to nest between your breasts.

But I wish I could pierce you
with the sweet bite of each moment,
make your skin sing as your mouth
does when morning’s grapefruit —
rosy as a harvest moon — bursts
its bright blood in your mouth.

Nor can I emblazon the flavor
of your lost love’s skin —
the musty tang your tongue
is always craving. Or that prickle
in your throat each time
you inhale the salty surf.

I can engrave a date or lace-
edged wave before it breaks,
but not a moment. Such cannot
be created, only stumbled
upon, one by one, like shells
seized at the beach before
the sea reclaims them, caressing
with your thumb each satin cave,
dwelling in it as deeply
as you can before it crumbles.

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