The first tattoo was a death head stitched
into my left ass cheek after I had sex
in a graveyard.

Number two came after a binge a few years
later: Patsy Cline on my right forearm so I
could remember “Crazy,”

the lover who taught me about
needles and spoons, night that was more
than darkness, and later hate.

I mark myself so that I may forget—more
importantly remember when I need to know
what the crunch of broken glass in an alley

meant. Layer by layer over the years like
the phases of the moon, being inked became
graduation rituals to a new me

that I had to remember. The clichéd yin and yang
karmas the back of my neck, an Ouroboros,
slithered red, yellow, black, rings my navel

as I eternally return to my own self-creation,
eating myself on a banquet table of
colored skin.

My entire body now a tapestry of transitions,
color like a blazing autumn forest, my roots
drink deep the remembering of my markings.

But in marking, I am marked: strangers approach
like family and make comments about how beautiful,
how weird, how ugly my body is.

I realize that we all have been marked from the beginning,
in the garden, the inquisitor’s chamber, marriage bed—
marked by our sex, our desires, our patented roles.

These tattoos mere totems covering soft flesh like
a cherub’s husk, the others staring like a Cyclops,
we all walk within marked days.

Bergman’s Truth

            Panorama of the human condition
filmed by a machine’s voracious eye &
splashed across silver screens—illusions for
a primed audience.

            Bergman as magician emotionally manipulating a
people frame by shamanic frame. Come
into the confessional, the dark rows of popcorn &
drink filling the mouth as filmic rosaries.

            Here is your salvation. Here is your silver cross.
Let me show you your truth, your lost
meanderings from month to month, the walking in
circles, paralyzed like a wheelchair bound

            cripple by your own unconscious anxieties.
You do not understand that movies have become
your religion. Unknowing that art abandoned the
creative determination when separated from worship.

            I have become the unwilling high priest who builds
now the cathedral in air for the masses without a
mass. There where you bleat your loneliness without
listening to others.

            Drink the camera’s wine, eat the lens as a
machined Eucharist, eternally walk in your
tired circles without knowing the true from the

            Behind you, at the theater’s back, the dark rolls
through like a climax, like a dénouement, like
an army searching for Christ’s spear after they
cast it into the still waters.

            You move in a room of dreams, of twilight
scene after scene, searching for the music,
aching for the priest, for the confessional
instant that anoints the abandonment,

            but you will never know for you embrace your
demons like a lover, like the gossip who never
inspects the source—your politics are peripheral,
checked at the door with the unread script.

Ex Machina

There is little understanding in anything
we do; pushed & pulled between extremes
without any true probing into inner nature,
just boxes surrounding us since birth &
all poured into the box: from preachers, parents,
teachers, the inexorable molding of culture,
so that we come out as programmed ex machina,
robotic flesh driven by the oil’s blood, by myth,
a search for magic, by biology that makes the
night covers hot, the young girl quiver.

Such as you, a woman walking the world with
one-thousand mothers swimming your veins &
your daughters will have a thousand & one like
throwing a rock into a still pond where the
concentric rings spread outward from a barely
noticed center.

Choose carefully the debris, detritus that eventually
must be washed like an offering from the box.
Go down to still waters & cast upon the fates, fly
as a spring bird through Helios washed skies &
mount the tallest mountain where the gaze through
fractal clouds underscores patterns weaved on &
through your dress, rubied skin, the soles of unwashed
feet striding to be free of sands, silent, wide waters, all
collected bruises like plum patterns on the days never

Goebbels’ Coat of Many Colors

Never attempt to convert the intellectuals.
Take to the streets with the common man,
His emotions, instincts, bring to the fore his
Hidden world & he will cease to hear the
Bombs & guns for his will has been supplanted
By the Party, the once hidden god now glowing
& robust as it strides through the Reich.

Give them a coat of many colors threaded with
A lie told a thousand times bursts from its
Seedpod as the new revealed truth where it had
Lain hidden in the savage heart of the waiting
Savage like a schoolgirl’s adoring gaze.

Let them twist themselves on the day’s
Propaganda confident that they act of
Free will. Make the lie at first appear
Concealed, like burrowing creatures, then
Make it grow, fatten, become plump with
Promise & they will fasten hard to the banner,
March after the bigger & bigger lie till they
Think themselves titans for the press is a
Giant government keyboard where black
Ink becomes red blood, truth the enemy of the
State, a square becomes a circle, the wolf-nature
Hidden by the circus disguise of flag & symbol,
Pomp & promise, the turning press servant for the

The liberal lie is that people can govern themselves;
The truth is that the lunatic as the sane hides
Sovereignty’s illusion behind the slyest cheaters where
The masses need the shot of horror like a needle in the

Conquer the street & conquer the state one
Deception at a time, reinforced like a lover’s lost
Kiss & never reveal the coat’s true colors.
Let it bleed, become sustenance, bread of life
Ground from roots’ myth.

Snoopy, Woodstock, and the Big Bang

Snoopy was playing football with Woodstock.
Ashamed, I burned them in the stove as kindling.
Schultz wouldn’t mind, just another Sunday paper
as image crinkled like a slow zombie consumed in

He doesn’t toss the football to Charlie Brown, that
loser, his lollipop dome reflecting Snoopy’s glee,
where somewhere beyond creation’s moment
Lucy prophesied all this before hatched from Plato’s

That’s why she has her own psych stand, really,
because she needs to psychoanalyze her sociopathic
self, always pulling the football away from poor
Charlie who permanently gets rocks in the bag for
Halloween—burned again.

And Linus, his Great Pumpkin mythology,
shouting that the Great Pumpkin will appear
next year despite evidence to the contrary, he’s
David Koresh in microcosm, oblivious that the
Big Bang already happened. “Good grief,” already!

The two Pisces cats: Snoopy & Woodstock, living
out dreams of “curse you Red Baron!” Star athlete,
Joe Cool & Great American Novelist, while the
funny little yellow bird, who can’t fly straight,
just bumps along in dotted circles.

But we love them, we do. Love them like loving
to argue over nonsense, bang around in daily
fires, wondering whatever happened to all of them
grown up without Schultz, wondering if Schroeder
big bangs, still, his little red piano,

Listening for the music of the spheres,
filtered between fires burning in space,
string theory vibrating along white, plastic keys,
where he pauses, momentarily, fingers out
the thin echo of moment’s first creation.

Agnetha Fältskog (It’s Not Just the Music)

I don’t know what it is,
Maybe no one does.
Maybe it’s just being human
with the curse of this finite
mortal coil.

When you reach this point,
like standing at the edge of the
pier staring into a dark, cold
sea, cocooned by monstrous
clouds, truly alone in the
existential moment, the realization
shoots through you that the only
meaning is art.

Not love
Not sex
Not drink


the morning’s meal
the afternoon’s seconds
the last mournful dance.

Only art & dogs
because dogs are a living

All art—good or bad for
this is production against
the clock.

This is the morning’s cloak,
like Agnetha Fältskog
returned at 65 from a

self-imposed decades
hermitage on a Swedish

Returned to make music
again & that is

Two Girls

The girl lounged beside me
is not you, no Lucy to my
Charlie Brown. Not even the
surrogate I have stitched together for
decades like stretch marks elongated
over an eternal pregnancy.

You may as well be dead but still
wound round like an engine’s copper coil.
I cannot jolt you out of the carpet,
your name still tangled in every thread.

Somewhere atoms seep still from your
molecules, the way that electricity streamed
from you like cream, and those wavelengths,
purple truths, illuminates a language that I cannot

Somewhere, worn down by earth’s fingers, sky’s
ardor, you must still intuit a strange version of the person
you thought you knew, the way that I look for a
shop still selling records, or a lost
child yearns for a way home.

You do not know the way I am now, nor I
you. If I could speak to you I would ask,
what is your night? Do you know the deep
dusk there where you kneel on smooth stones
expecting absolution?

I expect that you might say,
in those strange god-tongues—I have been this way
before, will be again, for it is rain-heavy bushes,
the moon like a broken light bulb that is fractured,
that cannot bite off a star.

And you, you must know that this is a false-
borne day, a dishonest December moment that
can only beguile.


“Bergman’s Truth” and “Two Girls” are excerpts from Ralph Monday’s new poetry chapbook, Bergman’s Island and Other Poems. You can purchase the book from Terror House Press here.