Monday, March 30, 2015

Not a Tattooed Poet, But a Poet's Tattooed Daughter

In our pre-April anticipation of the Tattooed Poet's Project, I look to Rebecca Foust.

"I don't have any tattoos," she informed me in response to my inquiry about her ink status, "but my daughter Finlay has the name of my book (and its titular poem), All That Gorgeous Pitiless Song tattooed on her head, shaved in order to raise money for research for childhood cancers."

Well, that suits me just fine, so check out Finlay's head tattoo:

Rebecca also shared the poem from which the title and, hence, the tattoo, originated:

Altoona to anywhere

Go ahead, aspire to transcend
your hardscrabble roots, bootstrap
the life you dream on,
escape the small-minded tyranny
of your small-minded Midwestern
coalmining town. 

But when you’ve left it behind, you
may find it still there, in your dreams,
your syntax, the smell of your hair,
its real smell, under the shampoo.
Beware DNA; it will out or be outed,
and you’ll find yourself back
where you started, back home,
unable to refute the logic of blood and bone 
you’ll slip, and pick up Velveeta
instead of brie.  It’s inexorable.
Kansas one day will turn out to be Oz
and Oz Kansas,

with the same back porch weeping,
the same husbands sleeping around,
addiction, cancer, babies born wrong;
the same siren nights pierced
with stars seeping light, all that
gorgeous, pitiless song.

[first published in Margie, nominated for a 2008 Pushcart Prize.)

~ ~ ~

Rebecca Foust was the 2014 Dartmouth Poet in Residence and is the recipient of fellowships from the Frost Place and the MacDowell Colony. New poems are in the HudsonReview, Massachusetts Review, Mid-American Review, North American Review, Omniverse, and other journals, and an essay that won the 2014 Constance Rooke Creative Nonfiction Award in the Winter 2015 issue of the Malahat Review. Foust’s most recent book, Paradise Drive, won the 2015 Press 53 Award for Poetry and can be ordered at For more information visit

Thanks to Rebecca for sharing her poem and to Finlay for sharing her tattoo!

This entry is ©2015 Tattoosday. The poem and tattoo are reprinted with the poet and her daughter's permission.

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