| The Tattooed Lady
"And on a clear day you can see Alcatraz."
from the song Lydia the Tattooed Lady
When I sleep she's in my ear.
On her side, she is the endless river-
Not a painted rose, not sideshow.
On her throat, Chinese for bird.
On oracle bones--a net with shaft--
Originally meaning "to capture."
X of the field artillery insignia
Under labeled parts of a bumblebee:
She's the study of all things, the snake
In the sockets of a pale-blue skull.
One might ask what the cursive Molly
Has to do with a map of Timbuktu,
Or why the emperor and the dragon sit atop
A few lines of Latin.
One might even inquire as to why
The naked nymph
In the frame of the painting
Has no tattoo.
But everything means
Because it is part of her body.
Even the teardrop of ink
At the left edge of her left areole.
Even this poem. And when she sings
The right breast's moon
Signals the shoulder's dove
To spread its wings.
And when she sits cross-legged
On my desk, I see a castle.
And when she reclines,
Great Solomon's Seal.
She is more than herself. Moth
And light, mirror and reflection.
Prison and prisoner. Electricity
And filament, wound and suture,
The mapmaker and the map.
Under her hair, the constellations.
On her tongue, a bitter almond
And all the chords of "Blue."
She'll sleep with you.
She'll sleep with anybody I ask her to.
David Koehn's work has been published, or is forthcoming, in a variety of magazines such as VOLT, Rhino, New England Review, and New York Quarterly.