I watched my aunt.
She saw me staring.
The etchings on the soft underside of her forearm were as black as the dye she raised to her head.
When she moved her arm, the symbols moved with her.
I sat at a distance
Even then I knew.
That some fearsome secret resided there, in her arm, on her arm.
This mark on her limb was not native born.
Some foreign, devilish, raging power, some demon, had placed it there.
Some invader. Some force.
Her tattoo was more somber, more intense, denser than those of my other relatives.
Their images were fainter, more green than black.
Others had figures so uniform they looked as if they had been printed.
Evidence of a prideful art.
Others, wiggled, straggled.
Ended hurriedly as if another were waiting.
Though not old, she was white-haired. Toothless.
She would laugh as I watched in horror as she removed her strange teeth.
The characters on my aunt’s arm emboldened her.
As if they were an insignia.
A rank.
An honorific.
I survived.
I am here.
I live.