My knee pushes into Az’s sternum. She pulls the flesh
of my thigh tight. Hovering, dips the needle into ink.

             Three hours to go. We talk about old lovers—men and their anger. 

The needle, an extension of her hand, flutters in & out of my skin, 
barely perceptible, black spatter trails in its wake. 

             Well, somethings not right in his emotional landscape.

Scorched earth, scorched kitchen table. I can’t help but tally the rage. 

             I still get nervous around drunk men when they move fast.

 One drop of ink spreads, contaminates the whole glass. 
             Amazing, the pain the body can take, its recovery astounding. 

             Still—how small the pinprick needed to make the mark last.

The second layer of ink cements the shape taking root
in my thigh. Az says we should color in the center of the fig 

 & I say, why not? As if, I’m casual with my body. As if fruit
doesn’t begin to bruise the moment it’s plucked.

             My daughter’s father isn’t around, she gets too attached
             to every man that appears. She’s still young, but—

We don’t really know what imprints and what fades. Some women
spend whole lifetimes inhaling the boozy breath of men, 

             eyes flitting towards the door, searching for an exit.
             The gate imagined, never opened.

I trust Az’s hands, making canvas of my skin. We pull back
to admire the fruit blooming on my thigh, 

             it fits neatly next to the barbed wire scars.

Cover art: “Forever and Always (Mouse)” by Sarkis Antonyan

Katey Linskey

Katey Linskey is a writer with poetry out and forthcoming in The West Review, Emerson Review, The McNeese Review, Contemporary Verse 2, Cobra Milk and elsewhere. She spent eight years working in public health which continues to inform her work as a writer. She can be found on twitter at: katey_linskey.