carve deep the altar of strife

on the very first temporary tattoo of one's own choosing; an ekphrastic poem
31/03/2022. total words: 190

The temporary ink caresses my wrist and I,
and I and I and I-
expect the pain to anchor me into my skin again.

Start with ink-wept tears and trace the depths
of darkness to cover pulsing veins. The deoxygenated
agony does not yet drive itself into this cobwebbed flesh.

She uncaps the red ink and brushes blood down the twin horns of a god
whose bones I’d climb, to touch the burning stars. I wonder
if the forgotten ache of tensing muscles compares to the syringe of permanence.

This breathing corpse of mine is a temple yet desecrated, a temple I alone
cross the threshold of, holding at last the key of neutrality. She brushes the iron circle
across scar tissue to call the darkness, with it the dust of the altar long forgotten.

When later I lie awake, the sun painting blue across the sky, humming
the aubade of another new day, I lift my once-torn wrist to my eyes and I
(and I and I and I, what is rejuvenation if not anticipation?)
taste on my waking blood, for the first time, the blessing of everlasting fire.


Caught in a third-floor elective classroom. carve deep the altar of strife is a poem that was going to get written the moment I was explained what an ekphrastic poem was. Strife is the moniker of a pagan god who I’ve followed for most of my life. The idea he tends to exist for is simple: the scars are what make you who you are, and they should be sought after and celebrated. Honour the pain, and recognize that you are better for it. Thus, this poem is actually about dysphoria, and that physical bodies have value, and how one goes about remembering that before the journey begins.