That’s My Moon Over Court Street: Dispatches from a Life in Flint by Jan Worth-Nelson (Poetry ’92)

That’s My Moon Over Court Street: Dispatches from a Life in Flint collects columns written by poetry alumn Jan Worth-Nelson between 2007 and 2022 for Flint, Michigan’s East Village Magazine. Read an excerpt below:

My new tattoo reminds me: there’s more to the story

April 2018

Some time in the middle of February – by far the longest, the damnedest, the cursedest month of the year in these parts – I got a severe attack of cabin fever. I’d been sick half the winter and between stink bugs, porn stars, scabs of snow everywhere, a terminally ill friend, threats of bottled water cutoffs, several bouts of existential dread in the middle of the night – well, let me just say that my tiny fastidious doses of Xanax were no longer enough.

I felt the need for a desperate measure.

I knew what I wanted. I wanted needles applied to my skin. I wanted to wear some ink.

Before I had a chance to change my mind, I plunked down into a black leather chair in a shop on Kearsley Street, my arm strapped down, and Zach set to work on my first tattoo.

Other than extreme schizoid flailing between ennui and exasperation with the world, what propelled me into that chair was my love of the semicolon.

That is my tattoo, simple dot and lovely flourish of the comma, paired clearly where I can look at it anytime I want, for the rest of my life. I love my semicolon tattoo.

I am a person of ink and stories. One of my favorite scents is the smell of ink, intoxicating and soul-satisfying every time we go out to Riegle Printing to check on the magazine, for example. That scent floods into my body – I get an actual high, a rush of endorphins – and reminds me of work that I love and value almost above all else: the written word. I cry at the Huntington Library in Pasadena every time I stop in to gaze in awe at their Gutenberg Bible. My photo of the printing press – long gone – at the first newspaper I ever worked at, the Daily Gate City in Keokuk, Iowa, is, to me, possibly the most beautiful photo I’ve ever taken.

Ink is dying out as a means of communicating, of course – all the more reason why I am so happy to have it permanently on my body. I was born into a world of ink and will depart it in a world of atomized chips and pixels, far removed from the body’s experience of smell and taste and texture. I mourn that change from time to time.

But there will never be an end to stories. There is always more than one story. And no matter where you come in or opt out, there are always different ways to tell the story – a dizzying range of hypertexts: different villains, different heroes, different beginnings, different tantalizing details, different unintended consequences, different twists, different endings.

The semicolon stands for all that. It means there is more to the story. It means that there is more to come.

If you live in Flint, you need that hope.