A week ago, I sat in a chair, and as a Minneapolis jury completed its duty, a man I never had met, but whose work I had admired – thanks to Sofia – injected black die into my upper arm using a battery-powered needle. Nearly four hours later, I stood up, my arm burning, and admired the three wolves he had drawn in my flesh.

My first tattoo. Likely not my last.

Wolves carry much meaning for me. You see the one at the top of this page, solitary, strong, hungry. Bold, clever, vicious. Playful and cute. Serious and deadly. Wild, feral, untameable.

The lone wolf. The wolf pack. These two contradictory tropes reveal the oppositions of a wolf. Highly social. Utterly alone.

My family doesn’t have a crest. It’s 2021. And we come from crestless stock. But were we to have a crest, it surely would include wolves.

The wolves on, in, my arm are my family. They are my mother, my father, and me. My wife, my son, and me. Though one is slightly larger than the others, I can’t say with certainty that any of the three represents any specific member of either triad.

Am I the big one, in the middle? The one on the left, leading the way? The one on the right, curiously pondering the future?

I don’t know. I don’t care. The three wolves, alone, together, are fearsome, united, a little menacing. Even as you want to cuddle with each of them, with all of them.

I imagine them rolling in a ball, playing with a stick. Or chasing a small creature, working together to corner it, to devour it.

Generally speaking, you don’t hear wolves.

Except when we howl.


  1. What beautiful wolves. And each has its own expression. Apparently, the one who made this tattoo is a great master.

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