Stick-and-Poke Tattoo

I once met a woman at a café. There more we talked, the more I enjoyed our conversation. She seemed to me to be a pleasant, open-minded individual. We talked about our origins, our travels, things that we were into. She showed me a tattoo on her shoulder done by hand, a stick-and-poke tattoo. as it’s called in common parlance. It was a beautiful geometric piece done with dots conglomerating into a whole. It had a certain softness. She explained how the artist was a woman named Maia from Spain, a medium through which certain energies channeled. She said that Maia choses a design for you that instills certain energies, depending on your energy. I found the artist via Instagram and followed her for many months.

One day, she posted saying that she was in Austin and booking people for tattoos. I jumped on this opportunity, emailing her tout de suite. She replied a couple days later and a meeting was set.

When we met, I didn’t have a design in mind. But given the beauty of her works I had seen on her page I wasn’t worried. We talked about family and my relationships with them that make up part of it. We talked about places in the world and dreams  I had recently and other things. She said she would have a design ready in about 3 weeks…

The allocated time later, I went to see the design. It was better than I could have hoped. She showed me a geometric piece with a vertical eye in the center of it. She said that the design would help me look within to find the answers. She said it would provide a safe place to explore the ways in which I can mend parts of myself that might need mending or to give strength. We set up a time for the next morning to do the ceremony.

I arrived on a drizzly, brisk Central Texan autumn morning. She had relocated to a little silver-bullet trailer with a new wooden patio attached to it. There was a massage table and a native rug strewn over the floor. A light cloth covered over what would be openings in the wood. She had me stand facing her, with my eyes closed. She whispered prayers so soft that I found them unintelligible. In any case I was following her instruction to follow my breathing and didn’t try too hard to make it out. I had electric chills running up and down my body. She rubbed agua florida in her hands and brought them near my nose to inhale. The fragrance gave me chills in my face muscles as well. She placed the print of the photo on my forearm, taking great care to make sure it was aligned properly. She had me lie down on the table as she set up the utensils of her art. They were comprised of a small jar of ink, and her needle. The needle resembled a section of quality dark-wood pencil with a needle fastened to it with soft off-white medical tape. I laid down on the comfortable hip-height table and she went about her work, dotting downwards into my skin at an easy, even pace. I passed the time enjoying the music, a band with female lead vocals from South America somewhere. Perhaps it was Argentina. I stared through the thin veil of the cloth separating me and the chilly morn beyond it. I felt at ease, equanimous, happy. For much of the duration I was so relaxed that I would’ve fallen asleep if not for the annoying reminder from the nerves in my arm not to. We spoke a little about my next travel plans, about places she had lived such as Palenque, and about her plans in Austin. For the most part we were silent though, each immersed in thoughts or non-thoughts.

Before I knew it she had finished. She gave the area one last look over and dotted a few times until she judged there to be nothing more to be done. I looked at the finished product and smiled. I was glad I had left much of the design process in her hands, it is a pleasing tattoo to behold, to me at least. We walked into the grassy yard adjacent her living quarters to get a few photos. Here is the result.

stick and poke tattoo


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