portion of the artwork for Martin Galvin's poetry
Tattooed Med Student
Martin Galvin

Now I am old enough to have a history,
gastric and spinal juices gloss, in their delicate vials,
important rooms, rooms where things happen.
Those glimmering liquids though, being fluids
Have little say in the who I would like to be
Since I am old enough to have a history.
Significant to the matter at hand,
which is making a mortal show of myself
my teenage immortality, my vital need
to have a picture punched into my arm,
a legend etched above each nipple.

Having a history has advantages, for instance,
one doctor, fed on Latin, has suggested “Sic
Semper .......” on my prostate,
leaving the operative noun,
the telling, accusatory subject blank,
for another doctor and another time to finish off.

Once written on, one comes to realize things
about oneself that one can write oneself.

Tattoos, that legacy of literacy left as a wee modicum
to the swollen and unwashed by numbing artists
in seaports everywhere, have now become my own.
Born To Swill, I’ve punched above my left nipple.
Sworn To Skin above my right. In consequence,
I’ve taken up with fat, relish the rolls of flesh
that wash across my stomach, thighs, and face.
That’s not admittedly the best, though, not the worst.

Other things I’ve written elsewhere on myself,
scars for one, and lines, lines everywhere:
across the knuckles, lines, up the palm
and around the thumb, across the forehead,
across the heart, among the capillaries,
among the veins, lines sometimes on lines.
and don’t tell me you’re ready for this one,
one written inside the artery where I’m
always losing my pulse. The scalpel
the doctor would like to use to get at it
is dulling on the breastbone of a chicken
I was going to have for dinner tonight.

So, maybe you were ready for those, those
not being exactly the zingers of which
among others I am capable and about which
I am full up to here of cognizance.

Which is why I have come to the R-at-best
rated portion of this particular writing down.
And that, precisely, is where I have to stop,
being the kind of guy your mother would want
to have for dinner, and you exactly, would not,
having your own list of tattoos you’d like
to have engraved on your body parts
which would not fit on mine. Never ever.

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FRiGG: A Magazine of Fiction and Poetry | Issue 35 | Winter 2012