Holding her camera to my thigh, she watchdogs
my naked body. She corners me against the bed.
How long have your nipples been pierced?
As if bones are any less morbid than time.
As if skulls do not exist in the living beneath flesh.
She asks how I could ever ink death onto my body.
Mother hates when I modify the body she gave me.
She barges through the door. I am shaving my legs.
She lacks what makes a mother a mother—
guilt over a world she can’t protect me from.
My mother does nothing when I tell her he raped me.
Despite knowing what she wants and where she wants it.
My mother never gets the numbers on her finger.
He jabs the needle inside me. More hair comes off
than I expect. The artist shaves my arm. I straggle
to the tattoo parlor, grey hoodie, full of clementine
vodka. He withdraws, calling me “tease.” I say no
when he slides the tip of his rawness inside me.
It is impossible to choke on what is meant to be there.
He mimics coughing up hairballs, refusing to lick
my hairy cunt. He does not buy condoms. He assumes
birth control. He unqueers his touch, stops using his hands
and mouth. We plan the date I will lose my virginity.
Anyone could read his obituary, memorize the date.
I display our private moment. This literal grief begs
its exit strategy. Small, so she could hide it with a ring.
She wants her father’s death date on her finger.
I do not speak of unfinished things. I know what
I will get. Our tattoos will honor her father’s memory.
My mother and I pace the Pacific Ocean. Each time
a white man calls me “boo,” seaweed wraps around
my ankles. I have never learned to swim.