dawn lonsinger appeared here on the Tattooed Poets Project in 2014, and has returned to share a new literary tattoo:
I know that's a little blurry, but I liked the photo. Here's a crisper view of the text:
As someone who feels deeply the consequence & wildness & force of words, I never thought I’d settle on words I’d want on me for the rest of my ever. But while re-reading one of my favorite books (which is equal parts lyric, elegy, & theory), Roland Barthes’s A Lover’s Discourse: Fragments, I stumbled on this shiver of a phrase that seemed to already belong to my body. The actual fragment is "Mais j'écris a la place une lettre d’amour." The translation: "But instead I write a love letter."
It's from the section titled "The Intractable: affirmation / affirmation: Against and in spite of everything, the subject affirms love as value" [note: not as *a* value, but as value]. The fragment is from the middle of one of Barthes's sentences, in which he writes, (in trans.): "This morning, I must get off an 'important' letter right away--one on which the success of a certain undertaking depends; but instead I write a love letter--which I do not send. [and goes on] I gladly abandon dreary tasks, rational scruples, reactive undertakings imposed by the world, for the sake of a useless task deriving from a dazzling Duty: the lover's Duty. I perform, discreetly, lunatic chores; I am the sole witness of my lunacy. What love lays bare in me is energy. [and later] the strength of love cannot be shifted, be put into the hands of an Interpreter.”
If ever I had a personal ethos it is this: Mais j'écris a la place une lettre d'amour. Mais j'écris a la place une lettre d'amour. ["Against and in spite of everything"] . . . mais j'écris a la place une lettre d’amour.
For fellow typeface nerds, I went with Edwardian Script (designed in 1994 by Edward Benguiat & influenced by the look of writing with a steel pointed pen). I got this done this past summer while living in Madrid by Sonia at Acme Tattoo (Calle del Canal del Bósforo, 2, 28022), a wonderful artist at a wonderful studio.dawn also sent us another poem, which was previously published in Indiana Review (Winter 2013, Volume 35 #2):
Famine of Hands
When your hand touches the small of my back as if to discover
what body of water I crawled out of, which primordial form
foretold me, I am a net of nerves hung out into the abyss.
I am the wind knotting each weed to light and the surveyors are
out there somewhere, bewildered, no bearings but their own roiling
breath. Your hands are starfish clung to my coral hips, reliant on
crash, coil, the kinking of light through liquid. They cannot keep
to themselves. You fear the volition of your hands, their famine.
You say—we could just be friends, but our hands are camisoles of night,
oil silking across the surfaces of each other’s pond-like joints.
In the elevator, on the balcony, in the basement, in the field
behind the city amid the corn we touch until we feel like receipts.
Your hands blot out the terrible anonymity of light, crush space
into charcoal between us, a Rorschach no one dares to interpret.
What are we going to do? Our skin records the questions strung
between us like lit pins of cobweb—What are you? What debt
has delivered us here? What beautiful jinx?
~ ~ ~
dawn lonsinger is the author of Whelm (winner of the 2012 Idaho Prize in Poetry and Freund Prize), and recipient of a Fulbright Fellowship, four Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Prizes, the 2014 Greg Grummer Poetry Prize, and runner up for the Poetry Society of America’s Emily Dickinson Award. Her poems and lyric essays have appeared in American Poetry Review, Black Warrior Review, Colorado Review, Subtropics, Best New Poets 2010, and elsewhere. Her poem, “Sundress,” was recently chosen by the Pennsylvania Center for the Book to be featured in their Public Poetry Project 2016, and will appear on 1500 posters that will be distributed to Pennsylvania libraries, public schools, bookstores, and universities. She holds an MFA from Cornell University, a PhD from the University of Utah, and is an Assistant Professor at Muhlenberg College, teaching Creative Writing, Poetry & Politics, and Monstrosity & Apocalypse in Literature and Film. You can learn more about lonsinger’s work at www.dawnlonsinger.com. These days, she is beguiled by the unsheepish, the benevolent, the feral, the quiet, the ghosts, and the storms.
Thanks to dawn for returning to The Tattooed Poets Project and sharing a new tattoo and poem with Tattoosday readers!
This entry is ©2016 Tattoosday. The poem and tattoo are reprinted with the poet's permission.