#47 – Tattoos by Liam Day

Illustration by Randolph Pfaff


It doesn’t make sense: the route cuts against
the city’s grain. At rush hour, though a paltry
three miles for the pigeons that defile the station,
it’s an hour’s crawl from Ruggles to Central Square.

Shafts of a setting sun’s light perforating
an overcast sky evoke the heavens
masters used to decorate the upper edges
of canvases in museums we pass near the fens.

Ave. Louis Pasteur seems like a detour.
I went to school there, though rarely class,
was asked in 8th grade to leave. The next
right is the hospital – Beth Israel Deaconess –

where my girlfriend worked when I met my wife.
Six months from first date to the night I proposed,
another eight until the protracted bus trip
to the parlor where we had our wedding bands

engraved in ink on our left hands. Like everyone,
we fight – once over a bread knife, once
a glass of water. For that we had an audience –
her college friend, Mike, playing George Segal

to our Liz and Dick. There was pain, always is,
needle on bone. We chose for a design a gift
I gave her: a silver ring of shallow waves,
one on top of the other, that crest, then ebb,

like parabolas I might explain with calculus.
Math is part of it. So many strive to be
half of one, the circle the symbol of marriage.
But rings come off, fingers grow fat, gold,

the alchemy of love and pain, is readily tarnished.
It’s easy, is it not, to leave them in a drawer?
No, ink and needle afforded permanence,
permanent, at least, as we are.

Liam Day was born and raised in Boston. After graduating from college, he spent a year playing professional basketball in Northern Ireland. Upon returning to the States, he began teaching and pursuing a master’s degree from the Bread Loaf School of English, from which he graduated in 2004. His poems have appeared in
New Beginnings and online at Slow Trains and apt. In 2006, he was a finalist in the Black River Chapbook Competition. Liam currently lives in Boston with his wife. He is the Director of the Boston Area Health Education Center.

Read more MBTA Bus Poems by Liam Day