I've been working with my japanese sensei, asking her for help with a new tattoo i want to get in chicago soon. it's come to my attention recently, that the tag i wanted, "my body is a city" sounds strange to japanese ears. but the variations have been even worse: "my body is a language" doesn't work because kotoba is kinda ugly for a kanji, and "my body is a city of language" actually read, when i showed it to her "my body is the language of the city," which sounds pseudo-urban.
--Why don't you find a line of poetry in japanese and get that written down? she asked, her eyes sparkling with impatient happiness.
--You know, you're right. okay how about this? if i find a poem i love, will you help me find it in nihongo?
She nods, zipping up her coat, standing there.
and maybe that's what i need to do. . . .
Sometimes i don't know why i'm so fascinated with the idea that my body is a palimpsest, a canvas, an unpainted fresco, why i'm so intrigued with the internalization of language and the externalization of abstraction. "in the penal colony" was one of my fave kafka stories as a sophomore in college, but not as punishment, but as body art, as a way to reify the evanescent quality of language into something that language, by its inherent nature, is structurally unfit to do, namely, become culturally frozen in space and time. and since some things are beautiful enough to live forever, or at least, for 86 years, depending on how long we all live, getting a tattoo was inevitable.