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Recorded for Poem-a-Day, April 15, 2016.
About this Poem 

“A parenthetical appears in the last couplet of this poem, an aside I have no
memory writing ‘(let her fill you),’ interrupting the hermetic seal of the poem, a
wind blowing through an open door, just before we leave.”
—Nick Flynn

Tattoo

You do know, right,
that between the no-

longer & the still-
to-come

you are being continually
tattooed, inked

with the skulls of
everyone

you’ve ever loved—the you
& the you

& the you & the you—you don’t
sit in a chair, thumb

through a binder, pick a
design, it simply

happens each time you
bring your fingers to your face

to inhale him back into you . . .
tiny skulls, some of us are

covered. You, love, could

simply tattoo an open
door, light

pouring in from somewhere
outside, you

could make your body a door
so it appears you

(let her fill you) are made
of light.

Copyright © 2016 by Nick Flynn. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 15, 2016, by the Academy of American Poets.

Copyright © 2016 by Nick Flynn. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 15, 2016, by the Academy of American Poets.

Nick Flynn

Nick Flynn

Born in 1960, Nick Flynn is the author of the poetry collections My Feelings (Graywolf Press, 2015), The Captain Asks for a Show of Hands (Graywolf Press, 2011), Blind Huber (Graywolf Press, 2002), and Some Ether (Graywolf Press, 2000), which was the recipient of the PEN/Joyce Osterweil Award.

by this poet

poem

If this bowl is always empty

If it breathes if it’s lung

If a horse can rise from the ashes


Saul was a sailor on the boat to Damascus

He did not know what he was

Paul turned to a voice it rose up from the waves

It chained his boat to the

poem
Years later I’m standing before a roomful of young writers in a high school in Texas. I’ve asked them to locate an image in a poem we’d just read—their heads at this moment are bowed to the page. After some back & forth about the
poem

The newly dead hung on to the ceiling last night  

            like moths, wanting to tell us what they hadn’t

              found words for yet, their bodies still


warm on their mattresses below—they did not look

              comfortable, passing themselves