My Three Roses
Even inked permanence stretches & fades, gains & loses meanings like the red that drained from three roses on my deltoid as I labored in the heat painting houses without a shirt the summer I turned nineteen‹the green leaves of the roses, highlighted with yellow, now dun. The needle's hum buzzed in my ear, dumped ink in my skin. The drunk artist, Lizard, with a Byzantine Jesus taking up half his back, promised discounts if I'd bring him women to draw on. What was the reason we all went, five band members who'd never played outside a garage? Seventeen, paranoid from homegrown dope, beads of sweat formed on my brow & lips as the shock of the buzzing instrument weaved repeatedly the first small petal, & soon I numbed, stared glassy-eyed at our swaggering lead singer, fresh from the black leather seat, a babe in high-heel boots taking up half his left arm. The drummer & guitarists said they'd get their tatts next week, & we went home with the top down on Shane's '57 Chevy. I watched the bruised sun mix in the clouds & set behind the Exxon sign.
We broke up a few days later, disagreeing over the set list of Metal tunes we'd play at Battle of the Bands. I made up stories about my roses —to my frat friends— a jailhouse tatt & I was parolled before they drew in guns. To my teachers I said, "A metaphor for loss." To girls, I might've said they were a sign for our lifelong love. To my son, I'll say a birthmark that never faded.