Sunday, June 26, 2016

In Memoriam: Cody Todd, Tattooed Poet

I learned this weekend, through social media, that Cody Todd had passed away.

Not many people may have heard of Cody. As far as I can tell, he published only one title. But he was much loved by those that knew him. We met virtually, through the ether, back when I was assembling the first group of tattooed poets for the Tattooed Poets Project. And, a year later, he sent me more work, which appeared in 2010.

Whether or not the contributors feel it, I regard Tattoosday's ledger of poets (287 and counting) as comrades and friends. They have opened up to me and, when one of them leaves us, I feel like I've lost a friend.

In that spirit, then, do I offer up a composite of Cody's contributions. These appeared on April 22, 2009, and May 1, 2010, respectively, back when I was cross-posting the poems on my old site, BillyBlog.


Today's tattoos come from Cody Todd, who was referred to me by Carol Muske-Dukes:

The first one is a back piece, still in progress:

Cody explains this as "a Star Wars mural--the Millenium Falcon in front of a meteor pursued by a TIE Fighter, from The Empire Strikes Back with the specter of Boba Fett looming above the chase." He credits an artist named Skip (since retired) at Old World Tattoo in Arvada, Colorado (North Denver). This was primarily done in 1996.

Cody expands on the piece:
...the one on my back is still in progress--I foresee at least 5-6 more sessions and touch-ups before I can say it is certainly complete. I like visual collages and pastiche, just as I like the poetic collage of Eliot's Prufrock and The Waste Land, Marianne Moore's Poetry, or Frank Stanford's "The Battlefield where the Moon Says I Love You" and Joshua Clover's The Totality for Kids, are other examples. Poetry that synthesizes subject matter, speaking voices, speaking subjects, and stitch together otherwise independent and unlike things--unified by the mode of collage.

Why a Star Wars tattoo? Well, I guess I buy the argument lent forth in Joseph Campbell's The Hero with A Thousand Faces, that the mythical embodiments of the epic, the quest, and the hero are not just culturally shared, but I think each generation has their own embodiment as well. Hokey, cheesy, and melodramatic --yes, but I still watch Empire... with great nostalgia, and I don't think enough credit goes to [George] Lucas and his literary homage paid to Aquinas, Emerson, Plato, and Homer, to name a few. However, the revisions of Star Wars Episodes 1-3 are so bad I cannot watch them without getting sick. Maybe I am old now, but I just don't get them at all. Nevertheless, my parents still joke about the fact that I was conceived in the backseat of a Ford Pinto while they were "watching" Star Wars at a south Denver drive-in in the summer of 77."
The second piece is a "tribal-esque mural," of sorts, and was tattooed by a friend of Cody's named Bryan in 1997, at Your Flesh Grappling (now known as Your Flesh Tattoo) in Durango, Colorado. This piece was drawn by Cody and wraps around his left thigh:

Cody added:
"The leg tattoo was a personalized redefinition of the "Tribal" tattoos that were the craze when tattoos were no longer isolated to deviancy. Loosely quoting Mike Ness of Social Distortion, in the 1990's, kids could go to a mall and get their little "parts" pierced or walk out of there with a barbed wire tribal band around their biceps. I took a one-page graffiti collage from a notebook that I penciled of hooks, circles, ovoids, anemone-shaped and flame-shaped patterns with tentacles--my first name is actually on the upper left, and a small skyline of Denver with that wacky cash-register shaped building [The Wells Fargo Center] is just 1:00 o'clock from the family of bubbles or spheres centered in the band. I am going to amend this tat with another piece of similar solid black-ink graffiti to wrap a 4-inch band around my knee. That is the thing about tattoos--they are addictive; they beg to grow new limbs, and in that sense they are like little monsters."
Cody generously contributed several poems:

Tattooed on the Backs of Eight Fireflies:

Under a dark loam of night,
pure barbed wire.
Apparitions dancing
dancing and dancing.
Some of us just might bite
the apple those cursed birds already did.
Old story: cat bats us away
to reanimate or destroy.
Words are the ruse, flight
is the guise, and we are the fakers.
Return the favor: grace for
sex or salvation for dust.
Time is the knife. Gods the size
of thumbs. Men with bloody hands.
We captured our god, the sun,
and feasted on him by torchlight.


Two additional poems follow:

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.

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.
Thanks to Cody for not only sharing his tattoos with us here on Tattoosday, but for expounding on them at such length. It's always fascinating to hear people go beyond the literal meanings of the tattoos themselves, and explore the deeper significance of the art form as it pertains to themselves and society.

His bio appeared, in 2009, as such:

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.

In 2010, we extended the Tattooed Poets Project into May.

On May 1, we announced that we are being visited by an old friend, Cody Todd, whose tattoos appeared here last year.[2009]

This is his latest tattoo, four weeks old, inked at Purple Panther Tattoos off of Sunset in Los Angeles:

Cody provided this explanation:
Not too much of a story behind this. It is Marv and Goldie from the "The Hard Goodbye" of Frank Miller's Sin City. The artist who did this is from Tokyo, and her name is Koko Ainai. I admire the precision of her work in copying Miller's extremely elaborate sketching. As Marv and Goldie embrace, he is holding a gun he apparently took away from her and a bullet hole is smoldering in his right shoulder as he lifts her off the ground. That tattoo is the first of what is going to be a kind of sleeve in parts in which I take different scenes from noir films or works and decorate my whole left arm with. Upon seeing Farewell My Lovely with my girlfriend last week, I decided to get the front end of a 1934 or 1936 Buick as my next tattoo.

...I am doing my critical work for my PhD at USC on the "western noir," which is a term I sort of coined for a specific genre of film and literature concerned with elements that typically comprise classical film noir, except they take place in cities in the western part of the United States. As we see in the film, Sin City, it has a "Gothic City" feel to it, but it is most certainly somewhere out in western Nevada, or California. I think the motifs of lawlessness, street and vigilante justice, and the disillusionment with the American Dream are all at work in this kind of genre, and that it also borrows many elements from the Western as a genre as well. If anyone wants to read good literary western noir, I would direct them, promptly, to read Daniel Woodrell, who takes the noir theme and brings it to the Ozarks and southwest Missouri. If Chandler and Faulkner had a love-child, it most certainly would be Woodrell.
Cody expounded on his poetic contribution as well:
"Sadly, I don't have any noir poems. I'd love one to explore a relationship between noir and poetry, even though I doubt it is possible. The early work of Larry Levis is noir-ish (e.g. "L.A. Loiterings" or "Fish") but I don't think it was his conceit to explore that relationship, even if it exists. The work of Bukowski, voluminous as it may be, comes from a kind of noir persona that the poet created for himself, but again, not really an attempt to explore the poetics, if any exist, of noir. I do have a weird poem here that I wrote in a woman's persona, and she came to me one night as a rather desperate and dark soul."

Portrait of child swinging on an old tire, tied to a tree. Portrait
of man hammering a stake into the earth. Portrait of wedding:
the space-eyes of everyone, happy as hell. Welcome to hell. Oh
portraits ringing in our memories like unanswerable telephones
in abandoned offices. Hello portrait, it’s me. I’m alone and still
thinking about you, portrait. Getting drunk alone. Lipstick has
to be refreshed after each glass. Don’t leave me alone, portrait.
I am almost dead, almost smoking another night away, almost
admiring the stars, wanting to eat the their own cold smiles.

Reading back on these old posts, I marvel at how interesting Cody's discussion of his tattoos were. Not everyone is as expressive with their contributions.

Cody Todd will be missed, in more ways that I can even fathom, I would guess. We never met, and hadn't spoken in years. Still, his loss seems deeply tragic.

This is the best way I can pay tribute to one of our contributors, one thread in the fabric that makes Tattoosday and the Tattooed Poets Project.

Farewell, Cody, on behalf of the Tattoosday community. Condolences to your friends, loved ones, and family.

This entry is ©2009, 2010, 2016 Tattoosday. The poems and tattoos were reprinted with the poet's permission.

If you are reading this on another website other than Tattoosday, without attribution, please note that it has been copied without the author's permission and is in violation of copyright laws. Please feel free to visit and read our original content. Please let me know if you saw this elsewhere so I contact the webmaster of the offending site and advise them of this violation in their Terms of Use Agreement.

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