The woman who is a mummy
at the British Museum has tattoos
on her right shoulder dated
from five thousand years ago–
four S shapes, one bent line. No one
knows why she wanted marks
of soot embedded in skin.
Perhaps she was powerful, or not.
Maybe she walked in privilege, or not.
Maybe she bore children, or not.
Perhaps she had visions, or not.
I know what I saw at the gym.
Two strands of barbed wire
circling a woman’s thigh, a piece
that rose up from the loops
into her pubic hair. Jagged
barbs that snared her leg.
I asked, and she told, each wire
wrapped and headed for her sex
to remind her every day of escape
from the man who raped her,
beat her, tore her, kept her
hostage, until she broke
free. She may dream of power, or not.
Memory of violation, or not,
entertain vision beyond suffering.
The pain of the tattoo was nothing