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.

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