Milk Carton
Anna Bernstein

I got a tattoo
on my left ribcage. It says:
Peace, Love, and Happiness.
It says: Live, Laugh, Love.
It has a dandelion blowing away
in the wind. It has two sparrows.
It has a flock of sparrows. It has a
flock of sparrows leaving
in the wind.

I have a tattoo on my ribcage.
Sometimes it has a
large bird. Sometimes, the bird sits
roundly on plump haunches
like an orange. Some days
it stands on two long bending legs, like
broken chopsticks. On certain days
it is a house. The legs stay. 
Some days the house
walks away.

Once, my mother told me
if I got a tattoo I would be
buried a hard mile apart from
the family plots, even if
the tattoo said
Live Laugh Love. Even if
I needed her after
all this. I would have to
roll a long way towards her
in the dirt.

Nowadays, my tattoo
scares me a little
in the morning and in
the mirror when we
are both still damp
from a shower. It seems
to have grown a purpose
in its lines. Sometimes I think
I recognize it. Sometimes
it seems to have a place
for me to go. Sometimes I think
about following and feel
my skin stretching in that
cardinal direction. Still

most mornings I say to myself
I did not ask to be stamped
this way: with some
lost child’s face
looking out from my side.

Anna Bernstein Pic_preview.jpeg

Anna Bernstein is a historical research assistant living in Brooklyn. Her work has appeared in Dunes Review, apt, Inch, Atlanta Review, and decomP magazinE, among others. She has one semi-broken cat and several fancy and slowly-dying plants. Some of her fascinations are flora, fauna, disability, Jewishness, and the occult.