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My son, a tattoo artist, wants to do one,

but since my heart attack (aspirin, Plavix),

he’ll text me a new design, but won’t ask,

because of the stent, what I won’t have done;

instead, we talk of new ink or chair or gun

or new girl, not only if they’re having sex.

I like tattoos. The closest I came to one,

I was on day-liberty in basic at the Great Lakes—

after the smoke chamber exercise, without mask,

but before being shown how to fire a weapon—

I took the train to Chicago instead of Waukegan,

grateful, with Vietnam raging, to be a Reservist.

I window-shopped different tattoos in a parlor

I’d seen on Navy lifers, and then went to a bar.


Stephen Gibson is the author of seven poetry collections: Self-Portrait in a Door-Length Mirror (2017 Miller Williams Prize winner, selected by Billy Collins, University of Arkansas Press), The Garden of Earthly Delights Book of Ghazals (Texas Review Press), Rorschach Art Too (2014 Donald Justice Prize, Story Line Press), Paradise (Miller Williams finalist, University of Arkansas Press), Frescoes (Lost Horse Press book prize), Masaccio’s Expulsion (MARGIE/IntuiT House book prize), and Rorschach Art (Red Hen Press).

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