As she started medical school, Janet got the tattoo. She chose the blue star of a Philip Levine poem, in which the star appears on a man’s chest, tiny and perfect. The man is a workingman who makes “the glare for light bulbs”—desirous of normalcy, he wants none of it. But after the surgeon cuts it off, he announces to his patient that underneath it is another perfect blue star. Presumably, under that one, another.
Janet and I fought over the tattoo. I told her she had misconstrued the nature of time. In thirty years, I said, she would be an entirely different person, but the tattoo would still be there to embarrass her. Who was she, at twenty-four, to bind that future self? Janet responded that I was the one who had misconstrued time. She agreed that over the next years, she would change, that she would have to change. Yet she said if her future self was embarrassed by the star, she wanted it to be embarrassed. She was entering a time in her life when her commitment to poetry would become more endangered than ever, and she wanted to protect that commitment by writing it on her body. If she became a doctor who stopped reading and writing poetry, she wanted to hear the reproach of this younger self. My mistake, she said, was that I assumed people got wiser as they got older.
So the star is still here, on her wedding day. I still dislike tattoos. Except for this one, which I love out of mind.
—Kenji Yoshino, Covering
ETA: via ojousan