Mark

by Mario Milosevic

The giant

strides out of

the canyon where they live

and tells me she

wants a tattoo

of her sweetheart’s name

on her shoulder.

She stretches out on the grass

while I assemble

my equipment:

ladder

needles

ink pot

pump

rags

and straw hat for my head.

I have needled many giants before,

their vast skin

a living canvas

for kitsch and high art,

and now I charge by the gallon.

I put up the ladder,

caution the giant to

please be still,

and climb the top rung,

my hoses slung over my shoulder.

As I set to work

I ask if the giant felt the

earthquake last night

that rattled my walls

and shook my bed

but the giant says nothing:

they are not given to

small talk

and silently

I push needles into her skin.

Inject ink.

Wipe away excess.

It is hard work

and I need an

assistant

but tattooing in a fading

business in our village.

No young person wants

to apprentice to me

so I am perched precariously

on this ladder

alone

hoping the giant does not

twitch or shake

her arm.

I make the letter M.

It takes a long while

and when I finish and

begin on A

the giant

starts leaking tears.

They fall to the grass

where I hear them

before seeing them.

I pause and lick

my lips and look at the

giant who avoids my

eyes. I am an

insect

biting her arm.

What is it? I ask.

Is the needle too painful?

She closes her eyes and

shakes her head

and I finish the second

letter,

begin on the R

and finally she speaks,

her breath rushing into

the air like a hot

wind.

He died last night

she says.

Jumped off

the canyon edge

and lies crumpled

at the bottom

right now.

My hand stops for an instant

and then continues.

The sun is hot today

and I am weary

but I finish

the R

and move onto the

K

and after what

seems like a long time I

finish

the name of the giant

who disturbed my

sleep last night.

The new bearer of his

name remains on the

ground outside my

house for the rest of the

day mourning her

loss while I try twice

to hold her hand.