Back to Black

Sable bristles dipped in ink
seep black branches into the dipcurve
at the base of her spine.
I wrote it where she would never look;
because even if she could see it
she wouldn’t be able to see it.
She’d laugh and say ‘I know’,
but she wouldn’t know, she wouldn’t see.

Held my wrist with my other hand
to stop my handwriting shaking
as I imprinted this poem onto her unsteadily.
The ink sinked into her pores and I wondered
if she might feel it that way,
but she won’t.

I’ll dry the ink and kiss it goodbye
and not care when it smudges onto my lips
because it wasn’t written for her to read.
Because even if she had found it
by mirrors and contortions,
she wouldn’t see it the way I do.

She wouldn’t know
that when she rinses the poem from her spine
and it scuttles away into the drain
I’m still tattooed.
Mouth. Throat. Lungs. Heart;
blackened with the toxic words
I was trying not to say out loud.
I finish my script, pack my brushes and depart.

She can’t see it and I won’t say it,
but written in the small of her back
and on the tip of my tongue is “I love you“.

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