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September 18th- Poem of the Week

Upon Asking the Cashier at Kroger to Scan That Old Tattoo of a Barcode on My Forearm

Anna Journey

Turns out my body’s a dollar sweet potato
her register’s screen said, as she lifted
her scanner, and I laughed. I can finally call myself
Garnet, Georgia Jet, Carolina Red. Those names
of tubers—my accidental totems. So many
varieties. I might slather
my arm in marshmallows, burrow
deep into the Southern earth. I’d gotten
the tattoo at nineteen, drunk, after Alicia and I
sneaked into the Jefferson—the fanciest
hotel in Richmond with its old
Deco fountain in the lobby
where pet alligators swam circles
through the Jazz Age. We sat on velveteen
love seats wearing ripped jeans among the suits
of Virginia politicians and Baptist preachers,
daring each other: I’ll get a tattoo
if you do. We discussed passion
vines on biceps or matching dragonflies
winging our asses. I swirled my plastic
flask’s bourbon, decided we’d make
a statement about consumerism—blue
barcode stamped on each of our forearms.
After the hotel manager kicked us out
for vagrancy I tore a page from a book
of grocery-store coupons so the tattoo artist
would have an image to copy: a barcode’s
exact marks. I didn’t think to stop
and choose which vegetable,
which object, didn’t know my body
would soften beneath the lines. Ten years
later I’d finally ask a woman
to scan the ink, wondering why
I’d waited this long to find out
I’ve always been sweet but slightly
twisted, I’ve always been
waiting to disappear like this,
bite by bite, into someone’s mouth.




This poem can be found in Journey’s book, The Atheist Wore Goat Silk.

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