Lower, lower, I tell the guy who roughs
out curlicues across my lower back,
in preparation for ink the shade of a violet.
All afternoon, I've bent for him, become
the drawing board, my spine a strand of pearls
about to snap. I've straddled a chair,
felt the marker's tip drawing its lines in me.
I have observed the tools—the latex gloves,
the autoclave, the tiny cups of color
like shots that stain us as we swallow them.
Soon, I'll feel the needle where his fingers
have been, the repeat, too fast for counting,
and the burn that—yes—enters like a lover.
I know there is a law against these things.
The Torah says, You shall not scrape your flesh.
I know my father is washing his hands
again. My mother cleans the countertop.
A numbered man is stretching out his arm.
This room is stainless steel. Lower, lower.
I arch against the awful, good machine,
and the secret that flowers underneath my skin.