Welcome to another installment of the Tattooed Poets Project!

This will be our sixth April celebrating National Poetry Month with a month full of tattooed poets’ work – both written and corporeal. Every day this month at 3:00 AM EDT, we will post a tattoo (or two) belonging to a poet, along with a sample of their work. Because interest has been unprecedented this
year, most days we will post TWO poets, with the second one appearing at 3:00 PM EDT. If you are a published poet interested in contributing, we will be featuring additional tattooed poets weekly, starting in May, or you can volunteer now for 2015. Please email tattoosday@gmail.com for details. And please, everyone, enjoy April on Tattoosday and thank you for visiting!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Tattoos I Know: Mary-Lee's Paternal Inscription


I'm particularly proud of this particular tattoo story because it hatched out of Tattoosday itself, in a roundabout way.

The signature above is a freshly-inked autograph of a man who has been dead over forty years. It graces the back of Mary-Lee, who I have known and worked with for a decade. The signature is that of her father.

Earlier this year, Mary-Lee, who has regarded the Tattoosday hobby of mine with a curious amusement, was moved by the story of Kate's tattoos (here), especially the one of her twin sister's signature. Kate's sister had died in a car crash the previous year, and the name of her sister, in her own handwriting, is a touching and beautiful memorial.

Upon hearing this tale, and seeing this tattoo, Mary-Lee began thinking of a similar tribute, made all the more remarkable by the way the stars lined up to make this happen.

Her father died at the age of 53, when Mary-Lee was only eleven years old. She was a typical Daddy's Girl, and has never forgotten the sudden nature of his passing, and the absence of closure, as she was not allowed to go to his funeral.

So, as the anniversary of his death approached on December 4, and she realized that this anniversary was special in that she is the same age as he was that he died, she decided it was only fitting to get her first tattoo, honoring her dad, at the same age as he was on the day he died.

The final question was, would she be able to get it inked after 6pm on the anniversary? She doesn't know the exact time he left this world, only that it was after 6pm.

She started looking for a reputable shop in the area, and stumbled upon Red Rocket Tattoo, located between work and her home in Manhattan. She booked an appointment after 6pm on December 4 with Betty Rose well in advance. As if the kismet of the dates lining up wasn't enough, Red Rocket is where our friend and co-worker Paul (see his ink here) had his work done, and Betty Rose was the girlfriend of Chris (see his ink here) with whom I served a brief stint of jury duty over the summer.


When December 4 rolled around, everything went smoothly. Betty Rose had lifted the signature from the old ssocial security card that Mary-Lee still had in her possession, enlarged it, and placed the stencil in the perfect spot on the first attempt.

She is very pleased with how the nuances of the signature were picked up in the process, and loves how the inked reproduction is tilted "upwards, toward heaven".

And, whether it is the physical fineness of the lines and minimal surface area the tattoo affects, or whether there is a paternal heavenly influence with its hand in the process, Mary-Lee has marveled that she has experienced none of the typical symptoms that come with a healing tattoo.

This lack of self-consciousness about the ink, combined with the minimal pain and aftercare required, has validated for her the transcendent healing nature of her tattoo.

And it has helped her obtain another level of closure that she never received when she lost her father at the age of eleven.

Thanks to Mary-lee for sharing her tattoo and its story here with us on Tattoosday!

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