Mr. and Mrs. Tattoo

by Glen Armstrong

Glen Armstrong holds an MFA in English from the University of Massachusetts Amherst and teaches writing at Oakland University in Rochester, Michigan. He edits a poetry journal called Cruel Garters and has a new chapbook titled Set List (Bitchin' Kitsch, 2015). He has two more chapbooks forthcoming in 2015: In Stone and The Most Awkward Silence of All, both with Cruel Garters Press.

 

We each got a tattoo
to prove that we love each other.

Soon, we each got a second tattoo
to prove that we really wanted the first.

The third tattoo commemorated
something too painful to talk about.

People would constantly ask
about the third tattoo

so we covered it
with the fourth tattoo.

The fifth tattoo just appeared
as if inked by elves in the night.

Each tattoo had a special meaning
except the sixth tattoo.

The seventh tattoo continued a story
about a mermaid and a sailor

and an endlessly indifferent shoulder blade.
The eighth tattoo

was carefully planned
but secretly, a disappointment.

There were so many more.
Some of them tried to connect

back to that first tattoo.
They wanted to be part of a single covering,

to always answer the question
“how many?”

with “one.”
Others wanted their place on our bodies

to be theirs and theirs alone.
They resented any repetition

of colour or line.
We became a sort of buzz around town,

a sighting in the supermarket
or furniture store.

Children were told not to stare
and told if they didn’t forget the glimpse

they got of us that the impulse
to cover their flesh in pictures

would just erupt someday.
They would have to get jobs in circuses

or doing data entry from home.
We learned to smile and nod at our curious

but sometimes frightened neighbours.
And thus we grew old

sipping Earl Grey tea on the back porch
of our farm house, increasingly

confused about what to do
with our hands, our eyelids,

our genitals.
It is sometimes hard to see

any natural conclusion
or to remember that this business

with all its twists and turns
started as an act of love.

 


Glen Armstrong holds an MFA in English from the University of Massachusetts Amherst and teaches writing at Oakland University in Rochester, Michigan. He edits a poetry journal called Cruel Garters and has a new chapbook titled Set List (Bitchin' Kitsch, 2015). He has two more chapbooks forthcoming in 2015: In Stone and The Most Awkward Silence of All, both with Cruel Garters Press.

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