hallowed art thou

sitting in the chair opposite the tattoo artist
its been a while since my last confession

I remove my hoodie, revealing ink and scars
a cursory look, he sees more than he wants
to see, feels more than he wants to feel.

he leans towards me and takes my body into
his hands, applies the sting of the needle, calm,
calm, steady, I am resting against his side,

pressed against him, talking about choices and
paths, never giving up, never giving in. And he,
nodding, eager to believe, knowing how many

walk through his door, broken, beaten, needing
to cross thresholds of pain, to grow, to evolve,
to feel, we need the scar, the visible wound

we need to remember, not only what is lost,
but what is found; the absolute gift of being here.

I walk outside blinking in the bright sun,
temporarily blinded by the moment of it all,
the staggering weight of the lightest contact

between us: a white cloth, a crumpled dollar bill.
he is a professional, he touches my face with his
eyes, he says, good luck, I really mean that.

He is not here to give absolution. He is here
for art, for his own redemption, he lives in a world
where the used come to heal; he crosses himself

twice reaching for the mask and gloves, and again,
reaching for the needle, he needs a steady hand,
a steady hand, oh god a steady hand.

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