My philosophy walks around inked
with all the tattoos I ever decided against:
delicate vine at her nape, biceps twined
with lapis patterns and fiery-scaled dragons,
lucky coins scattered across her belly, the sign
of Pisces at her hip. My philosophy curses
like a sailor, too, and doesn’t mind
bringing strangers home—I stumble from my room
at midnight, blinking, to find her pressed
against the kitchen counter, someone’s hands
in her hair, his mouth against hers—
not that my philosophy is easy.
Some mornings she chain-smokes.
“Do as I say,” she says,
“not as I do.” And some mornings
she sits around in her robe reading Boethius,
laughing. She says the problem
with philosophies today is they have no flair
for the dramatic, no sense of style.
She says philosophies today don’t know
their business. Meanwhile, I’ve been thinking up
some new tattoos. “Does it hurt?” I ask.
“Not at all,” she answers, smiling, stroking
the unmarked flesh of my wrist. “Pain
is your prerogative”—as a black bracelet
of barbed wire seeps into her,
and a serpent spirals up her calf.
~ by Karin Gottshall
The Gettysburg Review, Autumn 2010