First published in Mslexia, Issue 64

I crave bare skin. Skin uncluttered, undefined. Skin that refuses to choose.

It’s too late for me. I am blemished with butterflies and roses, lilies and hummingbirds. Over the years I’ve scarred countless others with my needle. Maimed them with Celtic armbands and Chinese symbols, angel wings and dolphins.

The ink is everywhere, on everyone, and I am sick of it. These days only emptiness arouses me. I sleep only with the unadorned, losing myself in the snow of their flesh. I gaze at them in wonder, soothed by the invisibility of their history. No answers on their naked pelts and so I simply ask my lovers who they are and what they believe in and what they hope to become. Unlike the decorated, who share only the stories behind their tattoos, my unsullied companions give me their real selves.

When I lie beside them I feel as pure as they look. In their presence the dream comes for me, the dream in which the ink runs dry. No more ink anywhere in the world, and as I lay my redundant needle down, my birds and flowers and insects vacate me, and I am unmarked canvas, ready to start again.