In the Skin

Lynette Lamp

Draped in paper, you jump
like a startled squirrel
when I enter the exam room.
You always do. I didn’t ask
about the tattoos,
even though I probed
with questions about
everything else. You told me,
once you trusted me to know.
Spider-man on your left arm
to give you strength
after your father’s suicide.
An awkward iris on your back
planted over your ex’s name.
On your right thigh,
an angel with the date
your sister died. The kid
in the El Camino was at fault,
but no one sued, only
grieved. Still grieving.
You say each break
in your skin helped heal
some other broken part.
But there’s no place
for that ink in your chart.

Lynette Lamp MD is a practicing family physician in St. Charles, Minnesota. Her poems have been published in JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association), Annals of Internal Medicine, and The Pharos. She is a recent graduate from Spalding University’s MFA in Writing program. Email:

Editor’s Note:
Embodied meaning making: Memorial tattoos as a visual expression of grief
Jennifer L Buckle , Sonya Corbin Dwyer
Death Stud. 2021 Oct 10;1-9.
PMID: 34632966 DOI: 10.1080/07481187.2021.1983889
Memorial tattoos are an increasingly prevalent response to the death of a loved one. This study explored the role of memorial tattoos as an active response to loss and a visual expression of grief. Twenty-two people with memorial tattoos volunteered to be interviewed and to have photographs taken of their tattoos. Through a grounded theory analysis, the core category emerged that memorial tattoos were an expression of embodied meaning making in the grief experience. Under this core category, the themes of creating permanence, constructing control, and symbolizing the bond further elucidated the meaning making process represented in memorial tattoos.

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About David Elpern

The Online Journal of Community and Person-Centered Dermatology (OJCPCD) is a free, full text, open-access, online publication that addresses all aspects of skin disease that concern patients, their families, and practitioners. ​It was founded in 2012 by Dr. David J. Elpern, M.D. in Williamstown, MA. with technical help from Inez Tan.

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