Thursday, April 30, 2009

Craig Arnold Needs Our Help

Craig Arnold, whose poem was featured just last Friday here, has gone missing on an isolated island in Japan.

He needs our help. The Japanese authorities are close to calling off the search, and we need to do what we can by contacting our elected officials in Washington to put pressure on the Japanese government to not give up on finding Craig.

There's more info here.

The Tattooed Poets Project, Day 30: Joy Harjo

Today's poem is from Joy Harjo:

by Joy Harjo

I must keep from breaking into the story by force
for if I do I will find myself with a war club in my hand
and the smoke of grief staggering toward the sun,
your nation dead beside you.

I keep walking away though it has been an eternity
and from each drop of blood
springs up sons and daughters, trees,
a mountain of sorrows, of songs.

I tell you this from the dusk of a small city in the north
not far from the birthplace of cars and industry.
Geese are returning to mate and crocuses have
broken through the frozen earth.

Soon they will come for me and I will make my stand
before the jury of destiny. Yes, I will answer in the clatter
of the new world, I have broken my addiction to war
and desire. Yes, I will reply, I have buried the dead

and made songs of the blood, the marrow.

Joy Harjo
Joy Harjo was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in 1951. Her books of poetry include How We Became Human: New and Selected Poems (W.W. Norton & Co., 2002); A Map to the Next World: Poems (2000); The Woman Who Fell From the Sky (1994), which received the Oklahoma Book Arts Award; In Mad Love and War (1990), which received an American Book Award and the Delmore Schwartz Memorial Award; Secrets from the Center of the World (1989); She Had Some Horses (1983); and What Moon Drove Me to This? (1979). She also performs her poetry and plays saxophone with her band, Poetic Justice. Her many honors include The American Indian Distinguished Achievement in the Arts Award, the Josephine Miles Poetry Award, the Mountains and Plains Booksellers Award, the William Carlos Williams Award, and fellowships from the Arizona Commission on the Arts, the Witter Bynner Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts. She lives in Hawaii.

Thanks to Joy for participating in the Tattooed Poets Series! Check out one of her tattoos here.

Wrapping Up National Poetry Month

"Alas, I've done the uninkable"
-Paul Muldoon, February 3, 2009
That was Mr. Muldoon's response to my inquiry, in January, if he was tattooed. I've been wanting to include that somewhere this month, and finally found the spot. Thank you, Mr. Muldoon.

As I wrap up National Poetry Month here on Tattoosday and BillyBlog, it all seems a bit unreal. I spent a good quarter of the year, since mid-January, assembling the host of inked poets that have blessed us with their tattoos over the last month.

And there is more to come. There's a dozen or so poets who expressed interest, but never came through with photos. I continue to receive submissions from poets who have wanted to share, acknowledging that the deadline has passed.

I invite all of you who may have just been checking in on the poets' tattoos to return and visit often. Tattoosday is dedicated to presenting the most interesting tattoos it can find on the streets of New York. Note that I say "interesting," rather than "best". For, sometimes, a simple tattoo is anything but- the story beneath the layer of skin that the ink permeates is often more fascinating than the design itself. I want to thank everyone who helped contribute to the success of the Tattooed Poets Project.

First and foremost, Stacey Harwood at the Best American Poetry blog. Stacey was enthusiastic about the concept from the get-go, and her call for submissions on the BAP blog was a sign of legitimacy that I'm sure convinced many poets that the project was worthwhile and above-board. Her inclusion of Tattoosday on the BAP blog was a blessing, and the bit of html code that Stacey taught me will continue to be helpful in the future. I thank Stacey from the bottom of my heart.

Extended from that, I also thank other poets affiliated with the BAP blog: David Lehman, who has been series editor of The Best American Poetry since it's inception in 1988, BAP correspondents Moira Egan and Jill Alexander Essbaum for their support and participation, and Dorianne Laux who, although uninked, set me on a meandering path, introducing me to tattooed
poets who, in turn, introduced me to more tattooed poets, and so forth, and so on.

And of course, I thank all of you, the readers. In the blogosphere, no one can hear you scream and the worst fear of a blogger is that his or her voice goes unheard. Your comments, e-mails, submissions, and even your votes were truly appreciated.

April was our best month ever, in terms of traffic. As of this writing, we are on pace to eclipse the 25,000 hit mark for the month. I offer my thanks to everyone who has been kind enough to stop by.


Bill Cohen

And now, the final tattooed poet for the month! Enjoy.....

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The Tattooed Poets Project, Day 29: Eileen Myles

Today's poem is from Eileen Myles:

On Vine

I was looking
at the chandelier
do you
feel that
way she
I was driving
Los Angeles
some help
I didn't
Pema Chodrun
was a girl

airing my
She had a

I'm hungry
I'm homeless
with a really
pretty sun

She hadn't
for anything
but I gave
her five
and that
felt great
I thought
women are
a bunch
of idiots
but that's
what I
am are U

I don't count
on what
I am

and that
is more

any one

Eileen Myles is among the ranks of the officially restless, a poet (Sorry, Tree) who writes fiction (Chelsea Girls, Cool for You) and an essayist whose The Importance of Being Iceland, for which she received a Warhol/Creative Capital grant will come out in July, 09 from Semiotext(e)/MIT. She lives in New York.

Please head over to Tattoosday to see one of her tattoos here.

A gracious thank you to Eileen for sharing her work with us here on BillyBlog.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The Tattooed Poets Project, Day 28 (part 2): Meredith S.

As I explained over on Tattoosday, we had a surplus of poems from tattooed poets, so I've doubled up and made it a "Two-for -Tattoosday". Today's second poem is from Meredith S.:

Edelweiss (to my mother)

You sit in grandmother's
Oak rocking chair:
Crumpled hands resting in
well worn wooden grooves-
The sway of your light blue,
Sweat stained nightgown
Lapping at the sagging skin
Covering your calves.
The room, a cave of linoleum and
Damp musky air is dim,
The only light that gently radiates
Is from a collection of dirty worn potholders
That I thumb between
my long fingers and rough palms.
I breathe the thick air,
Taste the sickness sour on my tongue
And look back at the waves gently
Lapping against your bones.
You turn, smile slightly sweetly,
A look that signals a burst of lucidity-
I whimper a shouting whisper:
"I love you, but I cannot be your friend."
You nod, register and the air grows thick again.
I cup your sharp jawbone,
Clench a hand that once swaddled me,
Whisper into an ear once tuned to my cries:
"I forgive you"
The cave has become stagnant-
The air unbearable as
I stand behind you like
A guardian of all things unsaid:
Your mouth parts, I reach down and
Suddenly your mouth is gaping wider and wider:
Jaw unhinging and your skull opening
Like the cherished music boxes
you bought me as a child;
The stench of rotten meat fills the thick air:
I am awake.

Meredith S. was raised in a small town in north Louisiana. It wasn't until she moved to New Orleans when she was 18 that she found a city to call home. After her mother disappeared due to a drug addiction, Meredith moved to New York four years ago in search of a new home. She now resides in Brooklyn with her pug, Piggy.

See a tattoo inspired by her mother over on Tattoosday here.

Thanks to Meredith for contributing to this project!

The Tattooed Poets Project, Day 28 (part 1): Ruth Kohtz

Today's poem, "Phosphorous," comes to us from Ruth Kohtz, in the form of a video:

Ruth is a writer who performs regularly in Twin Cities' poetry slams, readings, and open mics. She studied writing at the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics in 2006. Her work has appeared in college literary magazines, random blogs, and in the bathroom of the Uptowner on Grand Avenue in St. Paul MN.

Thanks to Ruth for her contribution! Head over to Tattoosday to see one of her tattoos.

Monday, April 27, 2009

The Tattooed Poets Project, Day 27: William Dickenson Cohen

I'm going to be a greedy little blogger today and share one of my own poems (and one of my tattoos). The following poem takes the form of a sestina (clink link to see what makes a sestina). A hearty thank you to Doriane Laux for the advice and encouragement in publishing this here.


This is my maiden sestina, an initial attempt

At the celebrated form. Instead of pencil or ink,

I compose on a glowing screen. Two curious angels

Watch over me as I write, guiding my trembling hands

As they type. I pray for the steadiness of a tattoo

Artist, filling the flesh with a myriad of color.

Of course, my words are shaded black and white, not color,

And like any awkward apprentice’s nervous attempt

At needling a sketchy, rudimentary tattoo,

I try to keep it simple, hardly complicated ink.

My fingers blur as they strike the keyboard. I use my hands

To breathe my song, channeling the voices of the Angels.

Not that I claim to be a spokesman for the Angels.

My ego does not allow such nonsense. The bright color

Of my embarrassment flushes my face, tinges my hands

As I continue to sing my sestina, as I tempt

the words to form lines, the lines to form stanzas, the black ink

Jumping off of the page, “popping,” they say, like a tattoo

Glimmering on the flesh, hovering over skin. That, too,

Is the work of buzzing artists and guardian angels.

It takes a steady hand and an exquisite eye to ink

The skin, to fill a fleshy canvas with vibrant color.

I panic seeing my sweaty palms making an attempt

At art, transcendent. I could never trust my bumbling hands

To alter the landscape of another man. When one hands

The body over to an artist as they prepare to tattoo,

It is an intimacy, a leap of faith, as they tempt

the tingling nerves, touching skin, mating curves with angles,

no easy task when each canvas is a different color,

each shade an alternate universe absorbing the ink.

I marvel at the multitudes of passers-by with ink

Decorating arms and legs, necks and backs, breasts, feet and hands

Of the painted – residents, tourists, all races, colors.

I cannot draw a fig. I only write about tattoos-

Whether they be snakes, skulls, dragons, butterflies, or angels.

The very least that I can do is offer this attempt.

I tempt Fate with this, my maiden sestina, from thought to cursor to ink.

I may not possess the gift of the angels, or an artist’s steady hands,

But in every tattoo, I see poetry. In every poem, color.

William Dickenson Cohen, known more commonly as Bill Cohen, is a Hawaii-raised, L.A.-educated, Brooklyn-acclimated blogger and poet who feels awkward writing his own bio for his own blog.

He was most prolific poetically in the 1990's, when he had several dozen poems published in numerous small press magazines, including Atom Mind, Pudding, Lilliput Review, The Rockford Review and paperplates. One of his poems was included in the anthology Essential Love.

Please check out one of his tattoos here.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

The Tattooed Poets Project, Day 26: Claire Askew

Today's poem comes to us from Scotland and the poet Claire Askew:


He asked to see some ID,
and I wondered just exactly
what he'd accept. If I offered up
my thumb-print's small maze,
or the mark left years ago
by a saw’s stray blade,
would he believe it was me?

I could shirk off a sleeve to reveal
the slim lines of my lion tattoo, or leave
a bite-mark, uniquely mine,
in the cold, hard bank of the bar.
Surely he'd know by the backs
of my knees – their sinewy curve –

or the cool, low chime of my speech?

I could easily reel off my five
favourite records (in the club
or at home) in a half-second;
hew my most loved book's synopsis
out of the air. For him, would I trip
out my blood-type, my birthplace?
The ten-digit code to my building's front door?

Turned away from his door,
I walked home through the closes –
the meaningless walls
and the mauve smoke of dusk.
I was hem-swish and footsteps,
a mind’s quiet song – more heart
than any photo-card could hold.

Claire Askew was born in 1986 and lives in Edinburgh, Scotland. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Edinburgh Review, Poetry Scotland, Textualities and The Cadaverine. She is the Editor in Chief of literary magazine Read This (, and Read This Press (, a poetry pamphlet micropress. She also runs One Night Stanzas (, an advice blog for those new to the world of poetry. She has an MA in English Literature from the University of Edinburgh and is due to complete their MSc course in Creative Writing this Fall. She is a lecturer in English at Edinburgh's Telford College, and her first pamphlet of poems is due from Red Squirrel Press this year.

Thanks to Claire for sharing her poem with us here on BillyBlog. Head over to Tattoosday to see her lovely first tattoo here.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

The Tattooed Poets Project, Day 25: Rachel McKibbens

Today's poem is from Rachel McKibbens:

instead of a note, a tiny black box

I dreamt you became an airplane; miniature windows
lined the left and right side of your torso
with small heads peeking out of them.
Some of the people waved. One man blew me a kiss.
Halfway through the dream, it became our wedding.
The arms of your tuxedo removed to make room
for your wingspan. I fed you cake through your propellors.

When I woke up, I half-wished you were going to surprise me
with tickets to Costa Rica. Or news that you were being transferred
to the main offices in Decatur. I didn't expect to find
your side of the bed engulfed in flames, a herd of fire engines
circling the hole in the mattress.
I could not have imagined the tiny island
that surfaced near the headboard later that night,
the bodies of all your ex-lovers
floating off in the distance.

Rachel McKibbens resides in Rochester, NY. She has three tattoos of Ramona Quimby. Her poems have been published in Wicked Alice, Frigg Magazine, World Literature Today and The New York Quarterly. Her first full-length book of poetry, Pink Elephant, is forthcoming on Cypher Books (Fall 2009).

Thanks to Rachel for sharing her poem with us. Now go to Tattoosday and see her cool, knuckle tattoos here.

Friday, April 24, 2009

The Tattooed Poets Project, Day 24: Craig Arnold

Today's poem comes to us from Craig Arnold:

Happily Ever After

After the hot wax in the dark
dripped on the shoulder after the trials
the seeds sorted the river emptied
the Queen of the Dead’s black box opened
after the swoon the deathlike sleep
after he kisses her back to life
and they soar in perfect ecstasy
up to being gods together

now it is all and ever shall be
perfect but given an eternity
together might they not discover
that what they wanted was less each other
than want itself yearning and struggle
pursuit and failure and falling at last
into each other triumphantly

If love lasted forever
if we lost the taste of loss
what would we do for sweet or bitter
how would we give infinity a flavor
how would we spend our endless number
of second chances would we feel free
to ply our casual cruelties

They call or they don’t call
They make dates they never plan to keep
They drink they gossip they sleep their way
through a circle of friends that grows each year
smaller soon they begin to find each other
embarrassing like old school friends
or cellmates feeling awkwardly
that they have shared too much

until at last after an epic
encounter in Tangier the all-night quarrel
the tears and the accusations and the spilled
peppermint tea they give themselves
permission to lose touch

He starts a band records hit
acoustic-techno numbers that ache
with longing unspeakable and infinite
He moves in with a girl whose fridge is filled
with Dr. Pepper her apartment
papered with Dr. Pepper posters
and old tin Dr. Pepper signs

She gets into therapy at first
a full-time patient then with her own
practice she dates one of her clients
a boy who shaves his crotch and armpits
not to become a man she keeps
the keys to every place she’s ever lived
in a box she can no longer lift

It happens now and again
they are drawn at the same time
to the same place the ruined temple
the sidewalk café beside the Spanish Steps
that made the most exquisite mushroom crêpes
the park bench under the cherry trees
even the small Southwestern airport
They miss each other by a day
an hour a minute even

And as they sit and sip
glasses of water in which the ice
has long since melted as they wait
half-aware that they might be missing
something important as they signal
their servers to bring their separate checks
a cold thought passes over them
the shadow of a cloud across a lake

Perhaps this is not paradise
but the perfect punishment dreamed up
by love and death to cheat them out of both
no end no consummation but to play
over and over the feel of falling
toward each other endlessly

Craig Arnold's new book of poems, Made Flesh, is now available from Copper Canyon. He is spending this spring and summer wandering through Japan on a US-Japan Creative Artists Residency, working on a book about volcanoes. He teaches at the University of Wyoming. Follow his near-death (and near-life) experiences at

You can read more of Craig's poems here.

Please head over to Tattoosday to see Craig's tattoos here.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

The Tattooed Poets Project, Day 23: Guy LeCharles Gonzalez

Today's poem is from Guy LeCharles Gonzalez:


When I was young
I believed that if I held my breath while crossing bridges
I’d survive the day the ground gave way
plunging me into the dark waters below.

My mother would look back at me and smile,
How long can you hold it?

My silence was her answer
as eyes teared
and pulse quickened…

When I was young
I believed that Batman
and Robin
and the rest of the Superfriends
really were on the other end of the phone
telling me it was past my bedtime
and that if I was good
and did my homework
and respected my mother
that one day I too
could be a superhero!

I never questioned Wonder Woman’s deep voice
or Superman’s gruff smoker’s growl.

When I was young
I believed the skeleton in my closet
was the monster under my bed
so I confronted him
befriended him
called him poetry
and set him free.

When I was young
I believed I would one day change the world
through sheer force of will.

Manhood introduced me to bridges
long and winding
where the ability to hold my breath
paled in comparison to the need
to hold my ground.

Bridges collapse everyday from neglect
and acts of war
or acts of God
a foolish game of semantics
no pen and ink hero could ever win.

I learned in time
to cherish my mother’s wisdom
and the true meaning of her words.

I still believe I can change the world
no matter what bridges I have to cross.

How long can you hold it? she asks.
…as long as it takes.

Guy LeCharles Gonzalez works in publishing by day, world domination by night. Over the years he’s lived in Staten Island and South Beach Miami; served in the Jehovah’s Witnesses, US Army, and Dennis Kucinich’s ‘04 Presidential Campaign; won poetry slams, founded a reading series, co-authored a book of poetry and launched the coolest online literary journal ever; prefers Pumpkin and India Pale Ales, Jim Beam, and Dona Paula Shiraz Malbec. He’s a devout Mets fan from the Bronx now living in New Jersey, and has a beautiful wife and two amazing kids.

You can get more of him over at

Head over to Tattoosday and see a couple of Guy's tattoos here.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The Tattooed Poets Project, Day 22: Cody Todd

Today we have two poems from Cody Todd.

The first is called "Boba Fett" and it might be worth checking out, if you haven't already been there, Cody's post over on Tattoosday, where one of his tattoos is a Star Wars-themed back piece that features, among other things, the character of Boba Fett.

Boba Fett

Bad-Ass is as Bad-Ass does. I tilled earth

before the war and knew nothing of greed

or vanity. There once was a woman’s face

I looked forward to after my labor. Her shadow

burns in my helmet, chaffed and singed

as a dead clown’s skull. Pigs are cleaner

than humans, but all deserve to be

on the spit. Any woman can be a wife

for a night. I’ve got more weapons

than my life’s got chances. Money talks,

and the thief and priest abides.

Fire is as humble as a man’s pride

minutes before he begs: sweet hell,

sweet lion’s mouth, headfirst. Mute law

enforcement. Mute victims shot

in the back. Mute tombs kicked in half.

I’d barter light for a necklace of dried eyeballs.

Hell, I’ll trade in that hot-spurred devil himself.

Cody also sent in the following poem, as well:


Watercolor paintings on the refrigerator.

Watercolor painting of dinner on my plate.

The eyes were flashlights and black holes.

The political party with fire-eaters and acrobats

won the prize.

Mainly, laughter was swept gravel in the street drain.

You could see it the way you see it

eat its cheese: the moon

destroying two heads of glass.

My watch never stopped: spiraling

a miniature tornado atop my wrist.

The beautiful angel adorned with tattoos

from head to toe—plumes of smoke,

the neighborhoods became tears,

in and out of my windshield,

it is a currency between thought and motion.

Cody Todd is the author of To Frankenstein, My Father (2007, Proem Press). His poems have appeared in Hunger Mountain, Faultline, Bat City Review, Salt Hill, The Pedestal and are forthcoming in the Konundrum Engine Literary Review the Columbia Review and the Georgetown Review. He was born and raised in Denver and received an MFA from Western Michigan University. He currently lives in Los Angeles and is a Virginia Middleton Fellow in the PhD program in English-Literature/Creative Writing at the University of Southern California.

Thanks to Cody for sharing his work with us here on BillyBlog!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The Tattooed Poets Project, Day 21: Dese'Rae Stage

Today's poem is contributed by Dese'Rae Stage:

The Ball

I translated her into pain.

We met at the ball, a masquerade

in a messy apartment prone to noise complaints.

White Christmas lights, two months early,

hung from crooked nails in the walls.

Zorro was there, and Robin Hood too.

Prince Charming had prior engagements.

She held her drink, Jack and Coke,

like she wanted it to hold her;

a strong arm to hang on to.

She danced alone, despite her suitors.

I found her later on the tennis court

staring into the nightlight halo cast

upon her, into the eyes of some god.

She was missing one shoe and

swaying, as if with a breeze.

With your ear to the ground, you can feel a

train from a mile away, palms down in anticipation.

We waited, but he never came. Two bodies

parallel and then intersecting, I felt only

her lips and tears against my neck.

We lay there until the clock struck midnight.

She and I, Cinderella missing her prince

and Snow White, his understudy.

"The Ball" was originally published in The Mockingbird.

Dese'Rae Stage is a poet, photographer, and troublemaker extraordinaire. Sun-bred in Miami, she now makes her home in New York City. Her poems have appeared in The Mockingbird, Poems-for-All, and Voices. She currently spends most of her time with a camera, chasing rock stars to get the shot. Her photo work regularly appears on BrooklynVegan, PopWreckoning, Prefix, and Stereogum. You can find her portfolio at

Dese'Rae has some incredible tattoos, one of which can be seen over on Tattoosday here.

Thanks to Dese'Rae for her participation in the Tattooed Poets Series!

Monday, April 20, 2009

The Tattooed Poets Project, Day 20: Moira Egan

Today's poem comes to us from Moira Egan, the "European Correspondent" on the Best American Poetry blog. A hearty thank you to Stacey Harwood at the BAP blog, who helped me with the formatting of the poem!

Moira explains:

This poem comes from a series called Strange Botany that I wrote last year. The poems are written in syllabics (somewhat after Marinane Moore, one of my poetry heroes) and each poem takes as its title the Latin botanical name of the plant that acts as its central metaphor.

* * *

Ficus carica

In this country

it’s a tradition

to make a wish upon

the first bite

of the season’s fruit,

the first peach, cherry, nectarine,

cachi, so as I peel this

first fig, slowly pull its skin away

like a mammalian membrane,

I make the wish

that each of our

days might have some of

that taste of reunion

after long

absence, the salty-

sweet homecoming kiss, the airport

embarrassment of laughing

and crying both into each other’s

shirts. And it seems to me the fig

is the perfect


of all the above,

the fruit of yin and yang,


in shape, yet deeply

feminine in its opening;

how, on the one hand, it was

a tree like this under which Buddha

sat and found enlightenment, while

on the other,

these were the leaves

that Adam reached for

to clothe their humanness

when they saw

that they were naked

and learned of shame. How many fruits

acquire their musky sweetness

from the strange symbiosis of wasp

and worm? I don’t know, but I think

of the first figs

of that summer

when we met, how he

carefully peeled the fruit,

offered me

the sweet and strangely

tentacular flesh, almost too

ripe but not quite, and he kissed me

and church bells clamored out the Angelus

and he kissed me again and (yes)

I made a wish.

(The English version first appeared in The Hampden-Sydney Poetry Review, Winter 2008)

* * *

Ficus carica

In questo paese

è tradizione

esprimere un desiderio

al primo assaggio

di un frutto di stagione,

la prima pesca, ciliegia, albicocca,

il primo caco, così sbuccio

il primo fico, ne stacco adagio la pelle

come membrana di mammifero,

esprimo il desiderio

che ognuno dei nostri

giorni possa avere un po’

del sapore di ri-unione

dopo lunga

assenza, il dolce-salato

bacio del ritorno a casa, l’imbarazzo

all’aeroporto di ridere

e piangere entrambi sulla camicia

dell’altro. E a me il fico pare

la perfetta


di quelle manifestazioni,

il frutto di yin e yang,


nella forma, ma profondamente

femminile nel suo aprirsi;

e poi, da un lato, è stato

sotto un albero del genere che Buddha

si è seduto e ha ricevuto l’Illuminazione,


le sue sono le foglie

cui Adamo tese la mano per

nascondere la natura umana

quando videro

che erano nudi

e conobbero vergogna. Quanti frutti

acquisiscono la loro dolcezza muscosa

dalla simbiosi arcana di vespa

e verme? Io non lo so, ma penso

ai primi fichi

di quell’estate

che ci incontrammo, alla

premura con cui sbucciò il frutto,

me ne offerse

la carne, dolce e inusitatamente

tentacolare, quasi troppo

matura, ma non proprio, e mentre

mi baciava le campane esplosero nell’Angelus

e ancora mi baciava e (sì)

espressi un desiderio.

Translated by Damiano Abeni

(The Italian version is forthcoming in an anthology entitled Poesie per anime gemelle, Newton Compton Editori, Rome, 2009)

Moira Egan lives in Rome with her husband, Damiano Abeni, who is a translator of American poetry into Italian. Their most recent collaboration is La Seta della Cravatta/The Silk of the Tie, a bi-lingual collection of Moira’s poems with Italian versions by Damiano. It is so hot off the press that it’s not even up on the publisher’s website (though keep trying; it will be there any day now!) If you’re interested in getting a copy, feel free to email Moira at and/or check it out on her website

Previously, Moira and Damiano also collaborated on Un mondo che non può essere migliore: Poesie scelte 1956-2007, a substantial selection of the poems of John Ashbery (Sossella Editore, 2008) which can be found here:

When she is not translating or writing poems, Moira teaches poetry workshops here, there, and online. She is also thrilled to check in occasionally as the “European Correspondent” on the Best American Poetry Blog.

Please check out Moira's tattoo over on Tattoosday here.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

The Tattooed Poets Project, Day 19: Adam Deutsch

Today's poem comes to us from Adam Deutsch:

Natural Wonder

1972 MGB drops chunks
of rusty floor
at a parking spot above
the Grand Canyon.

Local girl brings me
a blood orange and a rose
she’s fashioned from tin foil.

There should be a dance with her,
a margarita
for thousands of years of majestic
erosion we witness,
a cataclysm honored,
glorious perpetual weather,
unhelped or stopped.

A draft of this poem previously appeared in a publication called The English Record.

Adam Deutsch is originally from New York, and has an MA from Hofstra and an MFA from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in No Tell Motel, Coconut, Juked, Rain Taxi, and Anti- among other places. Formerly of the Ninth Letter editorial staff, he is currently the Critical Prose Editor of Barn Owl Review and is the founder/editor of Cooper Dillon Books. He lives in San Diego, CA.

Please check out a couple of his many tattoos over on Tattoosday here.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

The Tattooed Poets Project, Day 18: Rachel Mallino

Today's poem is from Rachel Mallino:

An Open Poem To god

Dear god, there has always been this:
marrow inside of bone. Those retarded

cells that drive nonage to adultery.
cancerous swollen lips. I foolishly forgot

the wild dog story only to imagine
a new one: confused bees pollinating

in early spring as she watered
the waxing azaleas; a Queen’s

royalty misunderstood.
It all boils down to sex: mother’s

boney knees beneath
motel sheets as I stared off

into the bends
of brush strokes, art pinned

to tacky walls. The anonymity
of those painters, like my mother’s lovers,

became famous to me. There is forgetting
or the inability to do so. Dear god, if I believe

in anything it is this: bones
and that which runs through them.

- this poem is included in Ms. Mallino's forthcoming chapbook, Inside Bone There’s Always Marrow

Rachel Mallino lives in North Carolina with her husband, daughter and various lovable animals. Her most recent publications include Stirring, Boxcar Poetry Review, Weave Magazine and Thirteen Myna Birds. Rachel is the founding editor for Tilt Press and the dysfunctional e-journal Slant. Her chapbook, Inside Bone There’s Always Marrow, is soon forthcoming from Maverick Duck Press.

Head on over to Tattoosday to see one of Rachel's tattoos here.

Friday, April 17, 2009

The Tattooed Poets Project, Day 17: Raffi Ciavatta

Today's poem comes from Raffi Ciavatta:

Poem 2 (still untitled)

It is devouring me.
My eyes shyly find themselves
drawn to look up and
allow my heart rate to
skip half a beat and
so I nearly die for that
half a second, die of a
somatized heart attack
with wide open eyes,
staring at its immensity,
at its bestiality.

It is devouring me.
Instead of dying it always
makes me stronger as its
cold and refreshing
breath invade my nostrils
and fills me up with
It is devouring me:

The devil in me.
She makes me want to go
through every dirty downtown
and every fancy uptown
corner. She,
makes me so famished
for more and more while
she carves her skyscraper-teeth
into my jugular.

She is devouring me
as I head east
her gracefulness and curves
turn to straight avenues
and solid blocks.

The devil in me as his
concrete creeps into my veins
and makes me unbeatable.

It is a never ending antropophagy,
my best friend, my mother and
father, my spirit and lover, my
New York City

Raffi Ciavatta is intense; independent; brilliant; humble; the child of Cosmos with Metropolis; a lover of intellectual epiphanies; artistic insights; playful heat; who feels like screaming, being in silence and talking (all at once) and is the author of poetry, short stories, thoughts and chronicles. They are originally from Brazil, Italian descendant and now makes New York City their home.

More of their work can be seen/heard here.

Please be sure to check out a few of their amazing tattoos here on Tattoosday!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

The Tattooed Poets Project, Day 16: Nathan Logan

Today's poem is from Nathan Logan:

Good Apocalypse

Today is National Velociraptor
Awareness Day. Are you stocked
up on repellent? I have a couple
cans and a net gun. The bowling alley
had all the laser-activated vests,
so dyed snowballs were used during
the zombie crawl. We did not breakout
in spontaneous Michael Jackson
dance. That's a sure sign of bird flu.
I petitioned the university to declare
a phlebotomist appreciation day, but
it fell on deaf ears. If I had to list
my top three fears, it would be: being
eaten by a dinosaur, turning into a
member of the undead, and dancing
uncontrollably to a Michael Jackson
song. I know there's a small chance
of any of these things happening, but
it doesn't hurt to be prepared. Having
a phlebotomist day would at least
provide a deep breath, which is always
good while breathing underwater.

Nathan Logan is a MFA candidate at Minnesota State University Moorhead. He has four tattoos and a lip ring. He is the author of the chapbook Holly from Muncie (Spooky Girlfriend Press, 2008). His work has appeared in/is forthcoming from: No Tell Motel, pax americana, The Scrambler, SIR!, and Taiga.

Please be sure to head over to Tattoosday to see Nathan's literary tattoo here.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The Tattooed Poets Project, Day 15: Todd Heldt

Today's poem is from Todd Heldt:

for Barry Cunnane
Being met at the airport with news
your friend was killed on Saturday night
while you were sneaking a box of chocolates
to your nephew, who's four, whom you're meeting
for the first time, hundreds of miles away.
I watched him nibble each one around
the edges--then devour or set aside:
This is my favorite, so I'm saving it for last.
Two men walk up to someone and empty
the back of his head with one shot,
leave him to spread on the sidewalk
like a broken bottle of wine.
I drive old country roads with the kid,
who's too smart to ignore. When we pass
the old church he says, There's a graveyard
in every town. Everyone dies except us.
We're conspiring more chocolates,
and I hope that his wisdom can keep us forever,
like the cemetery stones where we sit
while I try to explain why he should be
less like my family, and more like me.
But I don't realize the migraine the sugar
will churn in his head, the hornet's nest
I will frenzy by the end of the day
when I face the god-like wrath of my sister,
whose love is a straight-back chair,
but also a country-charm duck.
And I'm not normal.
I know why she hid him from me
as long as she did: My friends
hug trees with their cars, shoot fire
in their veins, are gunned down
by strangers--and for Godsake,
I might as well have fed my nephew
a chocolate-covered razor blade.
Don't you know anything? I don't.
So I stand stupid in the airport,
a hangnail in the fist of travelers,
apprehending the absurd. I come home to
a dead plant in my window, a dead fish
in my tank, and who knows what other friends
I should call just to check on. Death
is a cement mixer lurching beside me.
Walking up South Halsted's stretch of wide spaces,
vacant lots, and rotted-shingle storefronts,
it isn't sorrow, but an opening of myself
to the world and its parking-lot truth
that to love is to be swallowed
by something bigger than myself.
And don't I long for the exchange
of pigeons waiting for breadcrumbs,
or table scraps finding a mouth?
Young mother pushing the baby carriage;
shopkeeper angling his ladder above;
the woman who sells me candy
whose tattooed tear swears that the world
will always be what it was;
teenagers on the corner, cradling
orange sodas and cigarettes, who for all I know
might put bullets in me just for walking by;
my family and dead friends, like burs
stuck in my skin or chocolates lodged
in my throat. The car swerves and misses.
I hadn't realized I'd stepped into the street.
The horn trails off, and I'm lucky, I guess,
for all that does not happen. When I get home
I want to call my sister and say, I'm okay,
given the given. I want to tell my nephew
the truth his chocolates conceal:

we all die eventually, and no one knows when,
but we have to hope we're God's favorites,
that maybe he'll save us for last.

This poem appeared originally in Stirring, and was nominated for a Pushcart Prize in 2008.

Todd tells us:

Coming soon (barring worldwide financial collapse): In September of 2009, Ghost Road Press will publish my full-length collection of poetry, Card Tricks for the Starving. They have a great catalog, so you should go practice buying books from them now.

If you missed Before You Were a Prophet when it was serialized in Hiss Quarterly, you can buy a print copy through their Lulu store. It's a humorous tale about death, guilt, god, rednecks, kleptomania, and William Carlos Williams scholars:

Please be sure to head over to Tattoosday and check out his amazing tattoo here.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The Tattooed Poets Project, Day 14: Cheryl Maddalena

Today's poem is from Cheryl Maddalena, a performance poet from Boise, Idaho.

She admits, this poem isn't her most flawless work, but it certainly matches the tattoo she has posted here over on Tattoosday.

Why I got the word “beautiful” tattooed on my arm in 200 point lowercase Times New Roman.

did I get it because I think I’m so beautiful? NO.
because “unexpected gorgeous moments
suckerpunch my sternum every day” seemed too wordy
to remember life is holy

because my career is going to take off
now that I have to wear a blazer every day
because black goes with everything
to give them something to look at
as they pull me from the car wreck
because my parents said I could do anything
and I wouldn’t want to make them liars
because when my parents die it will taunt me less
than “faith” or “love”

incessant captions for life’s scenes:
doing these dishes? beautiful.
opening the mailbox? beautiful.
other fonts make me nervous

so my children will be able to spell what they are
because it will look better the older I get
so I could photoshop it into my baby photos
and tell people it was a beauty mark
because my actions have consequences
and I too often forget it

I got talked down from the skull and crossbones
with a snake for the tongue
to give the nurses at the old folks home
something to see besides bedsores and bones
because you can’t get a tattoo
of the mossy forest floor

did I get it because I think I’m so beautiful? YES.

my husband wanted to get me something
for our anniversary and I don’t like jewelry
my arm wasn’t big enough
to get a dancing hula girl on my bicep
what are you going to say, “ugh, I hate beauty”

because it freaked me out
because I could
I was going to get “Daddy’s Little Girl”
in purple sparkles
but they were all out

because my people are the ones
who toil for beauty
in every mediocre moment
because being dulled
to life’s astounding details is unacceptable
because the past year was a tractor rolling over my heart

for the thousand thousand times
I’ve acquiesced to a will not my own
because my font is Times New Roman
because it seemed redundant
I got it just to show you
I’ve seen how hard you try
to be good, to be better, to love, to forgive
you taught me this
what else could I get?

Here's a clip of Cheryl (pre-"Beautiful")performing "Housewife" at Poetry Slam deLux (Boise Poetry Slam) on February 18, 2008:

Thanks to Cheryl for sharing her work with us here on BillyBlog and Tattoosday!

Monday, April 13, 2009

The Tattooed Poets Project, Day 13: Michael Sikkema

Today's poem comes to us from Mike Sikkema:

Say Me Into This Then

To ring this bastard containment
They used to undress each other

Now he wakes up and checks
in his mouth for “yes sir, the fish said,

I’m just going to shove
a little aquarium

up onto land there,
got everything I need in it.”

Mike Sikkema's poems have appeared in New American Writing, Bombay Gin, Zafusy, the tiny, Parthenon West Review, Fourteen Hills, Word for Word, Shampoo, Cannibal, Coconut, Xantippe, BlazeVOX, and other journals. His chapbook
Code Over Code appeared in 2005 and his new book Futuring is available at Amazon.

Read more of Mike's work here and here.

And, of course, head over to Tattoosday to see his cool tattoo here.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

The Tattooed Poets Project, Day 12: Rebecca Loudon

Today's poem is from Rebecca Loudon.

Rebecca lives and writes in Seattle. She is the author of 4 books of poetry, the latest being Cadaver Dogs from No Tell Books, several lyrics for songs for chamber orchestra and choir, and the libretto of a full length opera, Red Queen. She is a professional violinist and teaches violin to children. She has more than 6 and less than 10 tattoos. She practices writing at

The following poem is from the aforementioned Cadaver Dogs:


I was tending the garden when a bee flew

up my blouse stung my left nipple

I was claimed then

I wanted to be a better woman

reaching back with a corked finger

into fruit

I carry ice

worship fur

My body is split

& wet in spite of alcohol

with the goaty head man

nails curling down

becoming cloven

I'm not alarmed

I like the pillow


I fold the clothes of my dead

into plastic bags dresses shirts

socks slippers the whole shebang

my dead smell like lemons

their teeth are marshmallow white

my sister is perfect

she has a perfect body

her hair is a gold wasp's nest

I fold her Snow White pajamas

into a square

I see the reptile man on television

& realize it is my husband

holding a two headed turtle to the camera

all three of them smile

Thanks to Rebecca for sharing this poem with us here on BillyBlog. Head over to Tattoosday to see one of her tattoos.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

The Tattooed Poets Project, Day 11: Malaika King Albrecht

Today's poem is from Malaika King Albrecht:

We Can't Step into the Same River Twice

My daughter’s worried that the Live Oaks in City Park

can’t breathe underwater,

and the ducks that bit her small hands full of bread,

“Who will feed them?”

She imagines the Aquarium fish swimming away

quick as the silver flashes

of our pond’s minnows, only freer. The elephants, large as memory,

will wade out

like ships from the zoo, rescuing smaller animals.

But a poem’s

not a life line, and the poet, not a boat.

These places burning,

flooding at the same time; these buildings where I’ve said

to my daughter,

“This is where you were born, and your father and his father.

Your great grandparents

were married at St. Louis Cathedral.

Grandma Cherry

used to say the gardenias in New Orleans bloomed so sweetly

the bees flew

drunkenly into her kitchen windows all afternoon.

And here,

here’s where your father and I met. Because this is there,

we are here.”

But we aren’t here anymore. Nobody predicts when it will stop,

and no one

when anything will begin again. My friend’s daughter

kneels, thanks God

for her house that has a tree on it.

She’ll start

kindergarten elsewhere in borrowed plaid uniforms.

On TV the city’s

sounds are hundreds of dogs calling for someone across this filthy

slow moving water.

A man and a pregnant woman paddle an air mattress with brooms

to anyplace else. “The city

is a bowl.” An anchor says again, “The city is a bowl” until I too

am too full.

Malaika had originally submitted this poem (click link to read), but I had some trouble with the formatting, so "We Can't Step into the Same River Twice" was a nice replacement.

Malaika is the co-editor of Redheaded Stepchild, an online magazine that only accepts poems that have been rejected elsewhere. For submissions guidelines, please visit here.

Thanks to Malaika for participating in The Tattooed Poets Porject. Please visit Tattoosday to see one of her tattoos!