Rebecca Goss

Tattoos | Tattoos
April 26, 2017 Goss Rebecca


(for E)


They come with stories. Like the woman whose thorny twist

around her shin did not bear roses, but eyes. Her children’s eyes,

lashed almonds of colour, peeping from the leaves.


My tattoo for you would stretch an entire vine. Your footprints

trailed along my calf; your birth weight – a bloom on my thigh.

On my palms – what it was like to hold you, indelible prayers


to size and smell. The date of your death scratched at my heart;

letters of your name in a lace at my neck. Your first words

printed at my mouth, but tricuspid, sump – hidden at my ears.


Everything I spluttered in that psychologist’s chair etched

onto pages of my back; your father re-reading it, as I slept.

Stepping from the bed, my skin would kaleidoscope in sun,


its story dazzling the walls, and over and over child, I would bear you.








I’ve come to heighten the present,

throw my body into accident.


A sea of psychedelic skiffs

to choose from and once inside


I brace, await the shock of launch.

Dad and boy are bullied backwards


by larger, louder men. Hooks spark

the ceiling’s grill. Hit side-on,


girls scream. This is fairground

din and babel, with music bucking


in my gut. I’m knocked, shunted

to the side, upper body in metronomic


sway. He comes, with ethereal descent,

swooping from bumper to bumper,


hand on the pole, arms all muscle

and inky stain. The answer to peril: seraph


in ripped jeans, he spins me out on the black

expanse, leaves me shrieking and conductive.

Rebecca Goss lives in the UK. Her second collection, Her Birth (Carcanet/Northern House), was shortlisted for The 2013 Forward Prize for Best CollectionThe Warwick Prize for Writing 2015 and The Portico Prize for Literature 2015.  In 2014 Rebecca was selected for The Poetry Book Society’s Next Generation Poets. She blogs at