I have a friend who has tattoos
of a skull and crossbones on her arms,
and sandpaper scars, and down her spine
multicolored butterflies; a tender lady
who talks of redemption, and often
washes my pain away.
Sometimes, I am my father,
who thought a laugh worth any price
if paid by someone else,
or my mother,
weeping the morning long
for no reason she could think of.
All my tattoos are inside my skin,
of Mom and Dad, and caterpillars
down my back. My scars
don’t show, but when I speak
you hear my father, and my mother
when I can’t. Sometimes it seems
that tender only enters me
when paper words escape
the silence of my pen.
—from Rattle #22, Winter 2004