By Walidah Imarisha

When I die
I wear nothing but the tats on my back

His body
Writing his name on the sun his skin
Roadmap of ink and flesh
Raised keloid scars
That can be read like Braille

My adopted brother
Kakamia Jahad Imarisha
I named him when I was 17
He was reborn under my breath
And you know what the elders say
If you name it,
It is yours

mouth full of broken angel wings
and arm full of India ink

Rage seeped in with the ink
Injected by a prison gun
Deposited just beneath the exterior
In bold styles
No one could ignore
Creeped up his neck like ivy
Encased him in an armor of his own design

the cynicism of
“fuck the world”
spans his back
in bold old English letters
intersecting his hope
Afrikan warrior
Shield and spear in hand
Rises like the sphinx from the small of his back
Shadowed by a one foot anarchy symbol
Thug scholar to ruffneck revolutionary
Machetero symbols
Kamikaze graffiti
And a fucked up picture of Da Brat from when he was 15

And no box can hold him

the doctors told him to lay off the toxins
when they cut out the cancer
that was located directly under his right nipple
there is a two inch scar
camaflouged by the afrikan symbol for
eternal energy
he paints his scars brightly
in defiance of death
mocks the grim reaper
by taking his name
and painted a bulls eye in the middle
of his chest
with the edict “no warning shots”

His whole life has been a carcinogen

My brother is a living memorial
A walking Vietnam wall
A place people go
To remember atrocities
To mourn lost loved ones
To pray for forgiveneness
To vow
Jackie Jr.
A litany of those
Who slipped through fingers
Outstretched through bars
Dead partnas
And mommas
All on his body
They walk with him
He walks with the weight
Of exquisite corpses
His footsteps thump
Like thunder
And echo tenfold
For the multitudes
Who live
Under his skin

He carries a picture of me embedded over his heart
We breath as one
His name soaked into my wrist
Pulsing with my pulse
We inject our familial bonds
Needle connecting us like an umbilical cord
Blood clots slightly around
Tender flesh
We are joined by more than blood and ink
We chose with deliberation and forethought
We chose our scars
We chose family