I have tattoos.
They crawl up my thighs
And dance on my arms.
Some fading reminders of thoughts from the past;
Some inked in etches of life by the hour.

Do you think they’re taboo?
I suppose most skin is not technicolor:
Dark purples, pale whites contrast my tan hue.
Many of them exist for all eyes to see.
Taboo, I suppose they could be taboo,
If your eyes are not trained to see beauty like mine.

Do you not see the rich stories?
My skin tells a journey of love,
One of pain but survival.
What story’s on your skin?
Surely it’s nothing recited with the poetry of mine.

Oh and those hard times,
Those hard times I was forged in.
My tattoos are a testament
To my every flaw that bred strength.
I wear my courage on my sleeve,
And show vulnerability when the summer shows us leaves.

“Those are not tattoos!
Tattoos are intricate, those are mere hack jobs.
Those are mere scars, your shame shown to all.
I see no stories, no hard times, or beauty.
I see a sickness deforming your skin.”

“You dare not be proud of those scars.
For every triumph you see, I see love turned to pain.
For every bold work of art, tears that needn’t be shed.
It’s disgusting, your pride.
So cover up those marks, that pride should be shame.”

I remember feeling nothing but shame.
A glance at my wrist meant shame for loved ones I’d failed;
My zebra-stripe legs were the quintessence of weakness.
And what good did that do me but turning past into present?
No, shame is a weight that does me no good,
Though you’re welcome to pick it back up, I dropped it years back.

Do and think what you will.
You’re free to judge me and my past.
But as for me, I embrace my tattoos.
They’re daily reminders to keep on,
Because each one shows I’ve done so before.

I have tattoos.
They crawl up my thighs
And dance on my arms.
It may take you a while to see them that way,
But every tattoo shows the strength it took to be here today.


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