the consolation of philosophy

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



Lee said...

I can never bring myself to like tattoos. I've never liked them. But that's just me...I know others do.

I feel a work of art should be framed and hung on a wall!

I suppose one could hang around on a wall when not doing anything else!! ;)

red dirt girl said...

Hmmm ... I'm not opposed to tattoos. But I do think my 'window of tattooing opportunity' passed about 9 years ago :) However, I do love to tease Soub about getting one as he feels much the same as you.

As an educated landscape architect, I do hope you will include glorious gardens and fabulous open spaces in your definition of art. I always approached garden design as art for each of my clients.

On a final note, despite the images, the poem is not about tattoos but more about one's 'alter ego' ....

Now THAT's a thought - tell me about Lee's alter ego? What is she like ? :)


SL said...

I read this earlier today, and loved it! Loved it so much I have come back a couple more times to read again. Great post RDG!

red dirt girl said...

Hi SL!!

Your comment makes me smile! I love this one, too. A definite contender for best poem of 2013 :)


icyHighs said...

"the problem with philosophies today is they have no flair"

couldnt agree more. and who's the hottie in the pic?!

goatman said...

I love tattoos, on other people -- am always amazed at the ego trip. I also like those extended lips on the natives, and the odd restricted feet on the traditional-Japanese women, just not for me . . .

A wedding candle for you. But you must come pick it up.

red dirt girl said...

The hottie is my dramatic philosophy (she comes with flair and attitude :)


Seriously though, I'd expect my philosophy to have better tatts ...!

red dirt girl said...

How 'bout those long necked African ladies with gold collars ...??

Awww sweet = candle !!

Sounds like this might turn out to be a destination wedding ... :)


bulletholes said...

Down at my NA group we see a lot of Tattoos.
See a lot on young girls, and they have colored themselves up all over, and its going to be a long long life.
Sometimes they'll talk and one of them that still has a few square inches of peachy flesh left will talk about what she is going to put there, on the last remaining patch of herself that doesnt resemble something not her.
I just want to shake them and scream NNNNOOOO!
But its too late already.

There...thats my tattoo poem.

red dirt girl said...

That's gorgeous, cowboy !!!
You should post it.
My daughter sees it as art on her body.... so it's an opportunity to use the canvas of her body to express herself.
Practically every girl she goes to school with either has a tattoo or is planning their first (18 being the legal age to get tatted without a guardian's permission.)
I hope she restrains from covering her entire body with tatts, though. As you so eloquently pointed out - it's a long long life...!