The first words tattooed on my body were from a poet born into 1906. She wrote about the mischief of women being writers. I liked having this imprint on my skin– kind of like a warning sign or how syllables can be trouble-makers. Over the years, other words have implanted themselves on my body. Some are visible to readers, some can only be felt burning their way from beneath my skin.
Michel Foucault and Hélène Cixous joined in. Recently, it felt like the right time to finally have some of my own words on the outer layers on my skin.
It is a Saturday in Brooklyn and the heat is like a flirtatious lover batting its lashes against my freckles. I am biking along the beautiful path of eastern parkway. After a recent, unfortunate brush with the law alongside handsome poet, where we found ourselves accosted by three police officers lecturing us about the law we broke (running stop light) and subsequently writing me an overpriced ticket, I now STOP at all crosswalks and RED lights.
My red hair–resembling a giant puff of smoke earlier in the day–was tamed in a giant mess above my head and these words of mine slowly peeked out from beneath short-sleeved shirt.
Human on feet, stops beside me and says: I like your hair color.
Thank you, I say.
And your words. Can’t see them all, he says.
I lift up my sleeve a bit and let him read; I like to promote the encouragement of pronunciation.
He reads my words out loud and says, Cool quote.
I’ve often wondered what starts a quote. What makes someone’s words quotable. I hear a lot of things each day that move me, but they don’t often make it to immortalization.
I want to ask him what these words mean to him and I want to know what they make him feel. As a writer, so much of this tapping of letters onto screens or scrolling of letters onto pages is done in private. I don’t always feel the reaction or hear what thoughts are birthed out of these sentences or stanzas.
My body was read way before I had all these words on my skin. I was asked questions quite frequently of what my scars meant, where they came from, how new or old they were. I thought: if i’m going to be read in this way, i may as well give them some words to sound out.
I’ve been opening the windows to my body a lot more– airing out my language. Inspired by love. Inspired by healthier breaths. Inspired by new humans I’ve met who remind me how necessary it is to speak up and out.
My body is morphing in ways that are exciting and frustrating and I like that even in this frame that I’ve lived inside for over three decades, I am still finding new rooms to walk around, closets and drawers hiding lots of loot.
These quotes are a way to remember how often words surround us. Some stick on and remain, while others get crossed out, replaced by more up-to-date language.
My body has been a monologue for a long time. Now it is looking to dialogue. Now it is looking to ask and answer questions. It is coming out of hiding. It asks and yearns to be read.