I once loved a girl who tattooed four across

her back, which bared nervously but often

in the oceanic gloam of TV standby or cheap

candle’s night-light. I remember how, moist

and perspiring the cursive would shimmer,

inhale and flex and I would catch, behind her,

this artsy splendor–you are a child of the universe–

and I was flattered because this girl’s ribs

 

were lips spreading and teeth letting words

blow by which assured me the right to be

here. Here, as in thumbing over each line,

cupping her waist and tumbling broken-off,

 

clanking like a thrown down chain in a well.

Later I brushed my teeth while she washed

our waste and I saw her against the frost

of sliding glass. How she bent over and twisted

 

her skinny legs, scrubbing her thighs and breasts

and ass clean. I saw the tattoo again, pressing

against the glass for a moment, knowing it

would outlast me, follow her to dirt, and all

 

I could think about was how easily we fall

for bad poetry. No doubt the universe is

unfolding as it should. I looked away and spit

the blue-white foam, aiming it at the drain.

Sticking the bristles under the faucet, I pulled

the lever hard, watching the deluge from above,

how the pink bits and dried bony paste loosen

and spiral away, my bubbly confused mess.