Poem a Day for April – Day 4 – Indelible Ink

I’ve committed to writing a poem a day for the month of April as part of National Poetry Writing Month.  This is day 4. (I added days 2 and 3 to my previous post)

Today I stretched the definition a bit, and did a prose poem. Well, maybe it’s a micro story.  Inspired by a novel I’ve just read by Fiona McGregor, titled “Indelible Ink”


4th April

Indelible Ink

She loved her tattoos.  They were a wonder to her.  The way the ink was on her skin, was in her skin, was under her skin. The ink was part of her.

She loved the way other people appreciated her tattoos, though they were in the minority of course. They were usually people who had tattoos themselves. Mostly younger than her.  They admired the artistry. Some actually recognised the tattoo artist. Some had even been tattooed by the same woman.  This  was not run of the mill, Kings Cross, late night, post binge, blind drunk “gimme a tatt now” crap. This was thoughtful, considered.  This was virtuoso work.  The peak of human creativity, in her view. True art.

She hated the way many people averted their eyes in embarrassment from her tattoos.  Especially her family.  When did young people suddenly become so bloody conservative? Who wrote the rule that said a fifty something, respectable, middle class woman shouldn’t get tatts? Nobody asked her. What gave them the right to judge?  Christ, look at them with their smart phones, their fashionable clothes, their four wheel drives, their designer jewellery.  All of it so ephemeral.  A tattoo was for life, not a disposable item. Not a one-night stand. No morning after pill for a tattoo.  No bringing it back next day for a full refund.

Her tattoo artist was her trusted adviser.  Her tattoo artist had more intimate knowledge of her body than a lover.  Her tattoo artist was just that: an artist.  A guide, a friend, a confidante.  Her tattoo artist inflicted the most intense, exquisite pain, almost beyond endurance.  And for enduring that pain, she was rewarded with a body of work, a work of art, art on her body, in her body, under her skin.

Then the ironic blow came.  Cancer.  She knew the end was near. The cancer was eating her from the inside. But she would die before it ate its way to the surface, to the skin, to the ink, to the art that did its best to make her ravaged body beautiful.  When her body decayed, her skin would blister and rupture. She would become a dried husk.  Skin, cartilage and bones. And traces of ink.

It was nearly time.  She didn’t believe in God, but she believed in mystery.  She took the last of the morphine, slipped into a drug induced sleep. Dreamed of her cadaver, of her beautiful tattoos persisting as the rest of her corpse broke down. Of the ink seeping from her body.

In a hundred years, her remains might be exhumed. A shroud discovered, etched indelibly with a beautiful image.  Becoming a source of wonder once again.


6 thoughts on “Poem a Day for April – Day 4 – Indelible Ink

  1. For the first time since I’ve bothered to think about them, I’m thinking new thoughts about tattoos. Thankyou for the different perspective.

    • I could see you with a tatt Russ. Probably a Billy Collins quote. If I had one, it would be line from Ginsberg: “My mind is made up, there’s going to be trouble”.

  2. A lovely and thought provoking piece Mike. I’ve often thought about the tattoo I’d have if I ever had a tattoo. It’s a unicorn, a simple image I have on my computer as a jpg and on my personal letterhead. I love unicorns.

    Short stories are a different form than poetry, and you’ve done well with this short story. I can see how this piece could/would become a poem – would the words be as sweet? Who knows…

  3. Great piece of writing, Mike (however you choose to define it). The speaker’s personality really comes across (as well as being infused by your own special brand of ‘Up yours, society’ attitude). Like Russ, it makes me appreciate tattoos in a different way. I like the way you don’t reveal the speaker’s age until the third para/stanza. I’m guessing that, like me, many readers have, until this point, assumed the speaker is much younger. Nice jolt! Fave line: “No morning after pill for a tattoo.


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