Me? Today I am only whispering.
Like many of you, I unwanted went
to the grove from which one does not return
ever able ever again to pass
Let’s break plain, and say
When I awoke
I remembered nothing
but nothing did
A fresh flesh memory left—a line of X
stitched upon the spine by a hand very fine.
Me? I am not able to disappear.
Here is the course of bodies:
A single hummingbird’s beak grows quite long,
The quiet man every day will feed the wolf,
The woman weeds the garden, the wisteria wanders,
A monk splits a seed,
A queen has a miscarriage, a priest is needed.
These objects are not identical.
They are only begging: I like it here.
They are only begging: I am.
Villagers say from an unmarked grave shall arise
a tattooed ghost.
Even earth does not count itself cherry
Picked amongst cosmos; even earth shall heave a great mass
And never return.
Consider the sailor, who will
Cross unfathomed depth, who will breathe rare
Consider the sailor, for whom the disease
Nostalgia was invented.
For whom this small
Immolation, this flesh passport, this label not to be mislaid
Will prove true after weather has weathered,
Will prove his homeland:
FEATHER * FRIEND * FLOWER * GOD * WIFE * MOTHER
Any ink will buy him passage (home).
While one man scratches his name into a tree
Like some cat at the door of eternity
Another removes his dental filigree. Do you
Suppose what was sung in the night
Is not better than what was stained in the bright?
Do you suppose if wind whispers wild I cannot hear
Anchor drag cross ocean’s core?
Me—this now I am only listening.
*Between 1766 and 1779, Captain James Cook and his men made three voyages of three years each to the South Pacific. These sailors brought back many objects: coins, spices, creatures, although those left behind daily did not know whether the men themselves would be coming home whole. Due to high death rates, high incidence of loss of limb and loss of mind, there was also high incidence of loss of identity. It was not uncommon that a man returned home so halved from his former whole as to seem a different man, it was also not uncommon that he was quite actually a different man. Fortunes, children, and wives fell into the arms of men who had befriended their now dead heirs, fathers, and husbands in another land and learned their secrets. A simple solution to this theft came from another South Pacific import: the Tahiatian tatau. A tattoo originally selected and secretly placed on flesh served as a placeholder in a European life.
Candice Wuehle is a Master’s Candidate at the University of Minnesota currently pursing a degree in literature. She hails from a variety of Middle Western towns, but mostly Iowa City, Iowa, where she has studied at the Writer’s Workshop (summer sessions). Her work has appeared in The Honeyland Review and EARTHWORDS and is forthcoming in Gigantic Sequins.