When I was fifteen I took my two little cousins into town
and had them wait outside the tattoo parlour
while a woman with blue hair pierced my belly button
with a big red ruby that pooled inside like a roving eye.
They were crying when I emerged. I was
hardly able to breathe for fear of the pain.
On the way home on the bus, Amy sang Karma Chameleon
and Simone looked out of the window at time passing
as though watching life being silently obliterated.
I remember my belly looked so
white and soft lying down
with the jewellery like a well of fresh blood collecting.
I thought it quite beautiful though it often snagged
on my jeans. My girlfriend had once rooted the ruby out with her
tongue; the next morning had stung. When we found
a baby kicking in there I had to take the jewellery
out as my teenage belly stretched. Having that metal
inside my body had been as good as a wound. My girlfriend and I
had wounds to nurse, they comforted, they reassured;
while they healed there was a warm place inside
devoted to new cells and plasma.
After the birth, my belly was a waste of space,
a forlorn temple with no jewel or way in.
I couldn’t accept the tender map of pain
left imprinted on my belly when my baby was born.
I would trace the stubborn, soft pulse
of a network of trails in my deep skin with my fingers,
willing and willing them to recede.
Nobody touched my belly then, not for a decade.
My belly was women’s business. My belly was the place
a baby once lived. If I was carrion my belly would be
the first flesh to peck and rip–
my most vulnerable part–
silvery white in sunlight, nobody’s prize. The little nick
of a piercing scar reminds me that I’m not fifteen any more.
My daughter has only once asked me about my
numerous scars, about the little black rose tattoo on my back
that scabbed and skewed. Her belly is small and smooth like a chalice.
White, like mine, but pure, hollow, unpunctured.
One day she will go to the tattoo parlour
just to have something done to her. Just to see if it hurts.
Just to feel something healing over.