by Neil Rollinson

You get addicted to the ink,

or the pain; one of the two.

When she came in here for that rose


on her shoulder, I might have known

it would come to this; years later,

her body painted from head


to foot in a thousand colours.

I read her now like a picture book,

a china vase, a dream of my own making.


I’ve pierced her ears, her nose,

put studs in her nipples,

a silver ring through the hood


of her clitoris. I’ve covered

her breasts with moths,

her thighs with dolphins.


Her back is a forest of shrubs

and birds, her arms are vines,

her belly a nest of vipers.


I’ve touched her where only

a lover should touch, have heard her sigh

in the cold November gloom


of my studio. I’ve felt her burn,

at the brush of a finger, and hardly

a word passed between us.


I think of her sometimes laid

in her bed, the buzz of my needle

still in her skin, a lover


tracing the braille of a new tattoo,

or holding her, gently,

amazed at the wildlife swarming


under his hands, how she moves

in the flicker of candles; or watching

her sleep, how he loses himself


in the richness and intrigue.

The journeys he takes.

The stories he finds in her skin.