A Brief, Gorgeous Present

In July, I wrote about my intention to get a tattoo, and on August 22, I found myself in a tattoo parlor with my 18-year-old son, watching a Star Trek episode on my laptop in order to endure the hour of pain as I did something so utterly and bizarrely out of character. As I’ve pondered for two weeks about what I wanted to write about the experience on my blog, I found that I would either need to write a chapter-length account, or just share a poem. I’ve chosen the latter, my ode to my new tattoo.

They say you become more of who you are as you age
(neural pathways so deeply etched it would take a deluge to shift them),
and boy is that true
as I try not to react to every trigger
even faster than the last.

So how can I explain a big tattoo on my back?
Me, of all people,
who swore I’d never,
ever,
get a tattoo.

Me with a coward’s tolerance to pain
(who can moan and complain about a paper cut and has to hum audibly when getting a shot)
under the gun for a godawful hour
to stain my skin
with a permanent mark

of transformation (there’s the rub)

A luna moth has alit on my spine,
a spine that caused me no end of grief for thirty years,
and then mysteriously stopped hurting;

A luna moth,
caterpillar dissolving into genetic goo
to emerge completely changed,
a reminder that this DNA does not mean
we’re stuck forever in our ever deepening ruts;

A luna moth who lives for one week,
(only to mate and reproduce, without even a digestive tract);
just joy and beauty for a brief, gorgeous present.

Imagine that.
A brief, gorgeous present
permanently etched on my back.

Zoe Weil, President, Institute for Humane Education
Author of Most Good, Least Harm, Above All, Be Kind, and The Power and Promise of Humane Education
My TEDx talk: "The World Becomes What You Teach"

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