Tattoos By Tanya Azari


my tattoos are the bruises in my blood rising to the surface.
they are a mirror for the words living in the back of my throat
the broken pieces i no longer want to hide
the stains on the outside i never want to scrub out, they are

my mother’s flutter of her hand to her mouth
and my father’s deepening frown line.

my parents are proof i have magical tattoos:
they can change other bodies than mine
but not always minds,

because my mother still doesn’t understand
why i want to paint my skin like a
blank canvas covered in two decades of empty.
she can’t hear how the tattoo gun or handpoke
translates into morse code
the woes that swim through my veins,
which is to say,

i never know when my body will hit its expiration date
like when Kyle hit the middle divider on the 101 freeway,
skin, unmarked except for broken shards of car window;
like when Dave’s wife became a widow,
his robbed body dressed in the scars of 60 years of life
and 6 seconds of wrong-place-wrong time
lying in the grass like a one-man sculpture garden that
once used to breathe, see,
my mom can’t understand
why i can’t count on living
the same way i count my heartbeats.

cuz in this body and especially this mind, nothing is guaranteed
i don’t know if the day will come where i take my life
or my life will be taken from me—
mom, i never know when
my skin will trade tattoo artist for mortician,
i look at body bags and wonder when i will fit them,

see death gets on my mind
like how my tattoos get on my parents nerves
so when i come home one day
with ink blooming over the back of my hip,
my father pulls out his weak rebuttal like a water gun:
“why would you change what god gave you”

but dad,
your god gave me a depression
ten thousand feet deeper than the Mariana Trench—
there are days on end
when i am stuck on the bottom and cannot come up for air,
and dad,
i am scared
that one day i might forget to hold my breath
and my body will rise to the surface,
bobbing on the waves,
and the only way your god will know me
from his other failed creations
will be by the marks on my skin.

since the first time ink entered my skin like they were lovers,
i have gotten a new tattoo about every three months.
i still don’t know
if this is my reward for living that long
or my promise that i will live three months longer.

all i know is this:
on days when i feel like my body is a crypt
i cover it in hieroglyphics,
give my skin scripts that only translate to living
when i am an abandoned building
with the windows boarded up high
i spray paint the storefront to look like the sky—

i am trying so hard to survive.
trying to remind myself
i can exist in states other than drowning
and i found in
the bottom of a bottle of ink
a reason to keep on going.

this is my body now,
something i am still learning to reclaim,
all of these are pain
that no body forced on my body,
my body
is a one-person mural in nobody’s town
a tattooed temple that i don’t care if no one wants to worship in,
i have lived.
and somehow i’m still doing it.
and when there’s something stuck inside me
that needs to rise to the surface,
in three months when you see me
best believe me
i’ll have bruised it.

By Tanya Azari


Tanya Azari is a 21 year old genderqueer poet in California’s Bay Area working towards becoming a high school English teacher. They have self-published three chapbooks and are currently working on a fourth. More work can be found at


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