Leaf Tattoo

A boy named Craig in second grade

shorter than me but stronger

lifted a stone size of a hubcap

and dropped it on my head

digging a divot of hair and flesh

lubricated by red blood

astonishing us both.

Craig picked up my scrap of scalp

and dangled it dripping from fingers,

couldn’t answer why as teachers came running

but it was the last we saw of Craig.

From that day

I had a bald spot, a scar like a dead leaf

top of my head

which seemed not part of me

but carried by me


detached like senseless violence.

A bold girl named Betsy

touched it once and let me

touch her nipple. Just one touch,

one nipple. Then we threw stones into water

to watch them splash and sink

and disappear.

Sometimes yet in autumn

when the leaves let go in breeze

with a sound like Betsy’s whisper

I see that nipple a tattoo that glows and grows

giving, giving

against the luff of air

as we flutter, as we briefly fly.


Joe Cottonwood lives under redwood trees in La Honda, California dodging wildfires and playing with grandchildren. He is the author of the underground novel Famous Potatoes. His most recent book of poetry is Random Saints.