Ralph Monday’s most recent poem to appear here was “Light and Love” (October 2016)
By Ralph Monday
The first tattoo was a death head stitched
into my left ass cheek after I had sex
in a graveyard.
Number two came after a binge a few years
later: Patsy Cline on my right forearm so I
could remember “Crazy,”
the lover who taught me about
needles and spoons, night that was more
than darkness, and later hate.
I mark myself so that I may forget—more
importantly remember when I need to know
what the crunch of broken glass in an alley
meant. Layer by layer over the years like
the phases of the moon, being inked became
graduation rituals to a new me
that I had to remember. The clichéd yin and yang
karmas the back of my neck, an Ouroboros,
slithered red, yellow, black, rings my navel
as I eternally return to my own self-creation,
eating myself on a banquet table of
My entire body now a tapestry of transitions,
color like a blazing autumn forest, my roots
drink deep the remembering of my markings.
But in marking, I am marked: strangers approach
like family and make comments about how beautiful,
how weird, how ugly my body is.
I realize that we all have been marked from the beginning,
in the garden, the inquisitor’s chamber, marriage bed—
marked by our sex, our desires, our patented roles.
These tattoos mere totems covering soft flesh like
a cherub’s husk, the others staring like a Cyclops,
we all walk within marked days.