Tresha Faye Haefner
TATTOOS ON YOUNG WOMEN IN SPRING
Bellano Coffee, San Jose, CA
It is April again and the girls are pulling off sweaters,
walking into tattoo parlors,
piercing a needle into the body,
like shoving a key into a lock.
I sit thinking about the tattoo
I never got. Wonder if work would allow me
to slap one on my wrist.
Through the window the hills flatten at the top.
The buildings look like the erections of poor men
in broken hotel rooms.
The barista calls up my order, with a sleeve
of blue and green turtles inked into her arm.
A man next to me closes his briefcase,
blank, black, smooth as a cloth
soaked in chloroform.
Kafka’s story of a rat who says the world used to be big,
then the walls went up.
This morning the gates of my apartment complex opened,
The Food Max across the way has gotten older and dirtier,
the liquor light brighter every night.
I know now what I have never been able to say before.
I will never get a tattoo, or be young again.
Never return to that fresh feeling of milk or water,
the raw sweetness of a carrot
broken between the teeth.
The earth may produce all the violets it wants,
but the heart remains black, the blank skin a reminder
of what I haven’t done.
I sit down to read another book.
Sign my contract for one more year of work.
The island-like freckle on my right hand afloat in a sea of white.
Arm of a mannequin. Ghost of a girl
killed when she was young.
—from Rattle #37, Summer 2012