Karl Koweski

the tramp stamp

what do you think?
my wife asks
lifting the back of her blouse
revealing a fine line tattoo
of a butterfly
bracketed by tribal swirls

its obviously a fake
a decal applied with water
geared toward
edgy twelve year olds
I use to apply
similar stickers
to plastic model cars
when I was a kid

seeing the tramp stamp
on her back flab
I think of hash marks
on a stone monolith
I think of cave paintings
rendered on a rock wall
stretching beyond
the comforts of flame
I think of a clown
with a bright red smile
and gigantic shoes
honking a brass horn

it’s utterly ridiculous
like batwings on a rhinoceros

I wanna get it tattooed
don’t you think it’s sexy?

tramp stamps?
yeah, they’re sexy
on tramps
on wives they’re just

a tramp stamp
doesn’t make a woman
a tramp
and besides
you’re the only one
who will ever see it
I’ll be your tramp

I think of all the
tattooed housewives
who must have made
similar promises
to their husbands
and how, when I see
their tramp stamps
like scarlet letters
peeking out between
hip hugging jeans
and tight shirt
I’m compelled to stop
and make awkward
cramming as much
meaningful eye contact
in as little time
as possible

I can’t imagine
some other
thrift store lothario
eyeballing my wife
her lower back ink
resembling the
charred remains of a
campfire on a glacier

I’m gonna get the tattoo
just as soon as
I lose a little more weight

I let out
an explosive
sigh of relief

for a second there
I said, I thought
you were really going
to get that tattoo


Karl Koweski is a widely published poet and host of The Polish Hammer Poetry Hour.