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March 17th, 2012 - Matthew Fogarty

A catalog (incomplete) of recent tattoos:

BLACKBIRD. A raven; black and gray; in flight down the left forearm, small bundle of black flowers in its beak; had to stop wearing white shirts after another lawyer noticed it, said oh someone’s got something to hide, though by March 17 2012 the something was more than a deposit of ink but a gathering of sick nerves in the stomach waiting on grad applications; nothing remarkable from that day I’ve been able to unearth, St. Patrick’s Day, I celebrate, certainly had a drink, cherry blossoms hadn’t even bloomed, when they do it’s a delicate pink blush that falls over the city, anything feels possible, but DC was still cold, probably my feet were cold, I sat at a desk then in an office, plain white walls, plain brown desk, sadness of a shared coffee maker, always two windows open on the computer, one for work, one for the waiting; what kind of writer was I then, what kind of human, what did I think I’d be now; the decision was already made then to go.

ANCHOR. Traditional; back of the left arm above the elbow; black and gray; from a shop off the Boulevard Clichy near the Moulin Rouge; the street was narrow and the shop was dark and crowded and I spoke no French, the artist spoke no English, the shop kid had to translate; soothed it with lotion from the drug store down the corner from the tiny apartment I rented after quitting the law firm; there only a month; shaved my head, afraid for what scar I might see; drank at a Scottish pub near the Seine; worked mornings in a tiny chair at a tiny table on the apartment’s tiny balcony questioning everything because if not this then what and if nothing then what and why; somewhere, tried to force a great flushing of all I’d become without wanting to, the stuff I want to believe is not me, that I’d gathered since law school and before; great sadness for all the wasted time; also excited; an anchor-shaped bruise formed; my elbow swelled; the tattoo healed; they always heal.

ROBOT. Top of the right forearm; color; square metal body, half a circle for a head like an open-mouthed smile, shoebox feet; shop in the smoky mountains on a weekend escape from my mfa; eager to fill every space on my body with art like it’d seep something worthwhile inside; drawn like an illustration like the stickers I’d get at the doctor’s office as a kid, as many as I could grab I would peel off the backing and wear on my arms.

ROCKETSHIP. Inside of the right forearm from the wrist to the pit; small kid reaching out a rocket window toward a gathering of stars; based on a page from a children’s book; shop down the hill from Pike Place Market; nervous about the design, told the artist smaller smaller; wish now is I’d said bigger bigger; a favorite.

ANDRE THE GIANT. Outside of the right forearm; a face shaded blue-green and hulking, a portal at the center of the forehead beaming up toward folding hands tattooed across the elbow; inspired by a story I’d written, it won an award, Andre near the end, after a legendary match, how lonely he must have felt and how exposed and vulnerable, how he couldn’t hide; on a roadtrip to Detroit in the midst of a misspent year in the cornfields in which I struggled and almost didn’t recover.

SMOKING DEER. Chest; a deer, antlers, a pipe; color, cover-up under the pipe smoke; felt like a stabbing, artist stood over me, pressing down, the buzz of the needle, it took my breath away, I nearly cried, felt blasted out and empty; not longer after, toured with my first book, which itself felt like a blasting out; it healed.

WOMAN ON FIRE. Inside of the right wrist; red dress, head of flames; based on the cover of my wife’s first book, same book she read from when we met in the city we live in now, not long after the smoking deer, and outside of which we both grew up; shop down the street.

CITYSCAPE. Outside of the right foot and ankle and calf; black lines; collection of buildings from the skyline of Detroit, working where my father worked, the city in which we live, the city we were raised to fear, the city where we’re raising our daughter, the city we’ve learned to love, house we love, tiny spaces we can hide in and explore, a back staircase, a ghost door.

NURSE. Traditional rose of no man’s land; inside of the right ankle; memory of my grandmother who served in the red cross, with whom I’d play cards at her house on the lake and in whose image we named our daughter in a styling so stunningly fitting it feels no less than fated, they’re of such similar humor and now there’s this overwhelming sense of the flow of a thing, the feeling of a sense of a connection to others and everything in the wearing down of the skin where all that seemed so inaccessible is actually one thing, like the passing along of a secret I’m still working to learn; something about kindness and the wild preciousness of time or the precious wilderness of time.

HORSE. Left thigh above the bison on the knee; black; artist called it magick and intention, didn’t show the drawing until it was stenciled on, worked on trust; idea was imagination and wonder, because too often now I forget all the many folds of the soul; hard sometimes to see how I’m different now from what I was ten years ago, or who—as much time spent rueing the day job, essentially the same job, wishing for more time to be myself, to spend more of my days fully myself—but the body marks the time; the horse, it is spotted and leaping.


Matthew Fogarty is the author of Maybe Mermaids and Robots are Lonely (George Mason University’s Stillhouse Press, 2016), which Kirkus named one of the best books of the year. The title story won a Pushcart Prize. He has an MFA from the University of South Carolina, where he was editor of Yemassee. His fiction has appeared in such journals as Passages North, Fourteen Hills, PANK, Smokelong Quarterly, and Midwestern Gothic. He can be found online at and on Twitter at @thatmattfogarty.


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