Tattoos Can Be Useful
Sara Fetherolf


For instance your body can be a recipe for becoming more your body.
How you tell yourself the story before it happens:

this one will mean I passed through thorny places safely; here the sea spills from me.
How folks ask which hurt most. How you look like you might win a fight.

For instance a tattoo over your heart feels exactly like heartbreak, the same
dull burn on the sternum and when it heals the old beat flutters up

like the insect you had engraved there
so the world would know what it was dealing with—a spook, a lightbulb-loving

moondrawn spaz of air against a cheek, a homely thing. Because certain spells
only work if you carry them in the open, like ABRACADABRA cures bubonic plague,

and some spells need to be on two skins, yours and your sister’s, and you told the artist
you were twins when she was sixteen with a doctored birth certificate but it worked—

the spell worked, the way these things do, in jolts and shudders and how you drove
two hours to see her in the ward, how there

she was in low old sweatpants and a wifebeater with birds on it, how there
they were, the dark words on her hip, matching your wrist,

and she was crying, she was saying
get me out of here, but you left when you were told, drove

all night, pulsing across state lines, and your car broke down
finally at 4 a.m. and mom had told you don’t come home.

How teeth on teeth you were on your friend’s floor, talking in your sleep
—I’m sorry I’m sorry—

Once you wanted to make your skin do magic: bird on one side, cage on the other,
it works on a forearm in the right light, I swear it does, you move fast enough

the bird jumps in, but that summer
you were so fucking sick of jumping from cage to cage

you walked one day all fifteen miles to the next town to get it covered
with something bigger, more corvid, and flying away.

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