Every Heartbreak is a Trip to the Tattoo Parlor by Kayla Wheeler

The day I wrote a poem called, it feels like
where I breathe from is a punctured raft in open water,
a man wearing a clerical collar poked a hole in my nose
with a hollow needle, called me sweetheart, stood
over my shoulder as I looked in the mirror.
You have a good nose. Not all girls have a good nose,
you know. You smell good, too.
I drove home with a rhinestone in my face that shined
like the pawn shop owner’s eyes when I sold him the ring.
After my seventh hour under the tattoo gun, bicep taut and red
as a pig’s heart, a man in a leather jacket said I must be getting
something really special. I told him I need an ache heavier
than the one in my chest to anchor me to this chair and not
the bottom of a bottle. He nodded, said his girlfriend was
in the next room getting his initials in cursive on her ass. I said
love makes you do crazy things. For the rest of the session
I imagined them reminiscing over how hot this night was
while signing the divorce papers, whether or not she’ll spend
the rest of her life with a series of different O.B.s.

The problem with this coping mechanism is it allows no time for grief.
There’s something wildly sexy in the transaction of permanence
from someone you’ve just met, how their hands on your body
is work, the way they’ll dab a 4×4 of clean gauze on your skin
when you begin to sweat. Notice the bowl of lollipops available
in case your blood sugar plummets, how unlike any of your past
lovers, they’ll ask if you need aftercare. My medicine cabinet is filled
with liquid antiseptics, but I always accept it when offered – something
to rub over fresh wounds to make them easier to sleep on. In the morning,
I peel skin so new you’d hardly recognize it’s mine.


Kayla Wheeler is a nurse and writer from New Hampshire. Her work has recently appeared in FreezeRay, The Rain, Party, & Disaster Society, The Orange Room Review, and We Will Be Shelter, a forthcoming poetry anthology from Write Bloody Publishing.