Spotted on the F train between 23rd Street and West 4th in Manhattan:
Spotted on the D train between West 4th in Manhattan and 36th Street in Brooklyn:
Spotted on the R train between 36th Street and 95th Street in Brooklyn:
Spotted on the F train between 23rd Street and West 4th in Manhattan:
Spotted on the R Train this month:
My heart burns in flames of sorrow
Sparks and smoke rise turning to the sky
Within me, the heart has taken fire like candle
My body, whirling, is a lighthouse illuminated by your image
--Mihri Khatun ( 15th-century female Turkish Poet) from Poetry's Voice, Society's Song: Ottoman Lyric Poetry by Walter G. Andrews, Copyright 1985. Reprinted by permission of Univeristy of Washington, Seattle.
Posted by Tattoosday at 3:31 PM
April, they say, is the cruelest month. It also seemed, for personal and professional reasons, to be the longest month. And, as many may have noticed, we ran a little over and into May.
This concludes the second annual installment of the Tattooed Poets Project. The endeavor seems to have attracted more fans this year, and I am thankful for that.
But I do need to extend thanks to all thirty-three poets who participated this year, and tolerated my incessant badgering for photos, poems, and details.
And to the dozens (and I do mean dozens) of poets across the country and overseas to whom I sent emails asking for either tattoos or news of poets the knew with tattoos, I thank you for humoring me and the project.
The person who receives what I call the Muldoon Award is G.C. Waldrep. Last year, the Pulitzer Prize winning poet Paul Muldoon declined to participate saying "Alas, I've done the uninkable." The best response this year from an uninked poet was Mr. Waldrep's:
"What an interesting idea. But no, I remain untattooed. Except by the ravages of love and pain."
Here on the final day of the 2010 Tattooed Poets Project, we are featuring two tattooed poets (in two separate posts).
First up is Jeanann Verlee, who holds the distinction of being the one poet this year who met with me in person to discuss their tattoo. The poem below is dedicated to fellow bard Eboni Hogan, whose own contribution, not coincidentally dedicated to Jeanann, follows this post here.
for Eboni Hogan
She is the prettiest thing New York City
has seen since Christmas.
It is 2:38 AM. We have matching boots,
swirl cheap red wine between half-glossed lips,
jab bent forks into hard falafels.
The night is ready to end its shift.
A plump waitress wears the city’s tightest
electric-pink sweater, (a Valentine for her beloved).
Two Marines wink from February’s side of the glass,
a king cockroach lies wait in the ladies room sink,
the swordfish on the butcher block is looking for his gullet.
It is raining Merlot.
Our construction paper hearts, soaked
all the way through.
It’s 2:38 AM and I am stuffing her with confession.
She sucks the fat, licks her fingers.
I am gutted and we are ravenous, eating with our hands:
slurp, chew, gnash. Gluttons.
Soon, the bar and the second bottle are empty.
I watch her take the dull blade of a table knife
to her chest, (my jaw hanging loose like a broken
screen door swinging in a summer monsoon).
She slices straight through her breast,
breaks off two ribs, sets them on her plate—
blood rivering through the hummus.
She takes my hand, jabs my curious fingers
into the wound. I dig in hard,
all the way up to my elbow.
She doesn’t even wince.
The cooks across the room scorch
something that once was alive.
The pink waitress brings us each a free glass
of whatever wine is left and extra napkins
to mop up the pooling red spill
from our lips.
One of her tattoos, intertwined with her new book, can be seen here at Tattoosday.
Thanks to Jeanann for taking the time to meet with me, sharing her tattoos and poetry, and rounding up an exciting 2010 Tattooed Poets Project!
JEANANN VERLEE is a former punk rocker who collects tattoos and winks at boys. She is author of Racing Hummingbirds (Write Bloody Press, 2010) and her work has appeared in a number of journals and anthologies, including The New York Quarterly, PANK, FRiGG, Danse Macabre, and Not A Muse, among others. An acclaimed performance poet who co-curates the weekly reading series Urbana Poetry Slam at the Bowery Poetry Club, Verlee has performed and facilitated workshops across North America. She was co-author and performing member of national touring company The Vortex: Conflict, Power, and Choice!, charter member of the annual Spoken Word Almanac Project, and is an ardent animal rights and humanitarian activist. She lives in New York City with her best pal (a rescue pup named Callisto) and a pair of origami lovebirds. She believes in you. Learn more at JEANANNVERLEE.com.
Here on the last day of the 2010 Tattooed Poets Project, we are featuring two tattooed poets (in two separate posts).
Eboni Hogan's poem below is dedicated to her friend and fellow poet Jeanann Verlee, whose own contribution, not coincidentally dedicated to Eboni, is above here.
Tabasco for Jeanann Verlee
We eat everything so smothered in Tabasco, it leaves our fingers ringing. When we share a plate, we do not have to accommodate the daintier palate by quartering off a sauce-free section with first-rate ventilation systems and plexi-glass. We brandish the little bottle furiously, haphazard and without warning. The poor falafel treads the screaming red lagoon on a makeshift raft of lettuce. I imagine that the red-head learned how to pronounce the items on the menu from her Greek ex-husband, who would be horror-struck by this sacrilege of tzatziki. From her tales, I’ve concluded that a man like him deserves nothing less than a good goring with a hummus smeared fork. Tonight we count the names of those like him. Display each one on the table top as evidence that our greatest mistakes were charmers with crooked teeth and bad handwriting.
It is Valentine’s Day. In the forty minutes it took me to ride the train to the West Village, I witnessed three separate occasions of women sobbing, yelling, or a frightening combination of both. I watched a girl, no more than 16, curdling on the uptown platform. She juggled an overstuffed teddy bear, a bouquet of plastic roses flickering like Christmas lights. Unexpectedly, she turned to the sheepish boy standing beside her, still obediently clutching her knock-off Vuitton in his thick fist,
and struck him once in the gut with the blinking bouquet with so much force, the lights in half of them ceased to twinkle.
The European family dining at the table beside ours finds our conversation far more compelling than their own. They must wonder at the strange notion of two women wearing black dresses and clunky silver rings dining together on a holiday meant for meant for lovers. Because we know that they are listening in, we don’t spare them the gore, layering in words like “detached,” and “hemorrhage,” and “depressive”. If they must know, we will give them full coverage, unabridged. They will learn how to stage a coup d’état in a cab that refuses the ride to Queens or Brooklyn or just up the block, study the way a sidewalk rampage can never be figured into travel time, commit to memory the occasions when tears came unexpected while grocery shopping or watching a particularly sappy commercial about rescue shelters or tsunamis or fabric softener. Catalog the moments when we’d wished we weren’t so good with words.
As I tell the story about the time I cried so hard on a flight from London to New York City, that the flight attendant secretly handed me a napkin cradling a sleeping pill, the European mother turns to look into my face as though she may have remembered being on that very plane with some weepy American girl fraying her eyes into black sores— but, no.
She is met with the narrowed glare of the red-head who speaks louder now, peppering their meal with terms like “fume” and “razor.”
It was in this very restaurant that I was dumped,
by the same man.
One might think that after the second rupture I might reconsider meeting the man for “dinner” and “conversation,” at least not without considerable re-enforcements.
A sock full of quarters,
A getaway car.
Our mouths are churchyards. There are no bells adorning the graves of the sleeping. Every coffin lid is raked in anguish, pink polish embedded in the grooves. The ghosts have been known to fly from between our teeth and take to the streets, only wishing to be held into flesh again. Tonight they stay put, ignoring the Navy boys roaming 6th Avenue, the lesbian couple monopolizing the only working stall, the employee bussing the plates before the last olive pit had been cleared of its meat. Tonight they will cause no spills, lose no friends. They will patiently wait an hour for the train watching the night’s lovers quarrel and kiss across the Manhattan bridge.
Yes, it's May, but we have two more days of the Tattooed Poets Project before we're done for the year.
When asked to submit a poem, Cody Todd said, referring to the tattoo he submitted (on Tattoosday, here):
"Sadly, I don't have any noir poems. I'd love one to explore a relationship between noir and poetry, even though I doubt it is possible. The early work of Larry Levis is noir-ish (e.g. "L.A. Loiterings" or "Fish") but I don't think it was his conceit to explore that relationship, even if it exists. The work of Bukowski, voluminous as it may be, comes from a kind of noir persona that the poet created for himself, but again, not really an attempt to explore the poetics, if any exist, of noir. I do have a weird poem here that I wrote in a woman's persona, and she came to me one night as a rather desperate and dark soul."
Portrait of child swinging on an old tire, tied to a tree. Portrait
of man hammering a stake into the earth. Portrait of wedding:
the space-eyes of everyone, happy as hell. Welcome to hell. Oh
portraits ringing in our memories like unanswerable telephones
in abandoned offices. Hello portrait, it’s me. I’m alone and still
thinking about you, portrait. Getting drunk alone. Lipstick has
to be refreshed after each glass. Don’t leave me alone, portrait.
I am almost dead, almost smoking another night away, almost
admiring the stars, wanting to eat the their own cold smiles.