The plan had been grandma
in the hospital
tipsy at that intersection
of prescription and habit
I drove down
in case it was the end
she’s 96. It’s always in case of the end.
I drove down to give a few lectures
the first book ever had come out
I could say author instead of writer
I could say alive instead of dead.
I scheduled a new tattoo. A new goddess.
A friend designed. Celebrate the book.
Celebrate not giving up.
The only day I could schedule it
was the same day as leaving.
My sister was already in the car
Caged and wild and waiting to break.
She’d have time to grab food and take a walk.
She lit a joint on the street in front of a woman pushing a stroller.
I gave her money for food.
I went inside.
I hunkered down on the table
the image of what I wanted drawn on my skin
there was more black. it would take longer than the other ones.
there would be more pain.
my sister is covered in tattoos both beautiful and self-inflicted
Like I always do. I wanted to bolt from the table.
But I wanted that needle in me too.
I wanted to feel something so I didn’t have to feel her.
She came in and out of the parlor.
She scheduled her own tattoo unsure of what she wanted.
Then canceled. Then scheduled again. Then canceled.
I apologized for her. The needle went in. I tightened.
I contracted. I felt like I deserved this.
Perhaps I deserved her. Shouldn’t I have tried harder?
When she was younger?
Before the permanent mark of crazy on her skin?
And when it was over she was pacing. She was screaming.
I smiled. The throbbing of my shoulder blade under plastic wrap.
Another goddess to protect me.
I put her in the car. The tattoo between me and the passenger side.
She talked of her plans and my faults.
My shoulder tingled and I felt light headed as I drove
Us out of south. Out of her connections.
Out of another grandma false alarm.
We picked up our aunt and headed north.
And I felt nothing for her.
Just the dull soreness and puffy skin
of new commemoration.