Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The Tattooed Poets Project: Iris Cushing

Today's tattooed poet is Iris Cushing. Iris sent us this photo:

Iris explains:
"This is a drawing by the poet Elizabeth Bishop, which I found in her Edgar Allan Poe & The Juke-Box: Uncollected Poems, Drafts, and Fragments, edited by Alice Quinn. It illustrates a dream that Bishop had while she was at Yaddo in 1950, about an owl riding on the back of a rabbit. I love that Bishop was a poet who drew, who rendered her inner and out experiences in diverse ways. I was reading a ton of her work when I got this tattoo in 2009. There were a lot of barn owls and jack rabbits in the country where I grew up in Northern California. Reclusive, mysterious creatures. I wanted to have the image in my life always--it's something I decided to live with, those animals, her simple drawing. I got it done at Inkstop Tattoo in the East Village." 

Iris sent us this poem:


Together, we identify
a single tendril of smoke
above the prairie
and follow it to a teepee
disguised as a wedding gown.
Two puffed-sleeve
chimneys and a satin
bodice catch wind.
The white tulle train
is full of spiders.
You circle the teepee
six times before lifting
its hem from the long grass.
When you turn your face
to nod me under, your eyes
reflect a fire.

Inside, we find
a medicine man who can
transform AA batteries
into AAA batteries.
We empty our flashlight
for a demo.
He wears a spangled robe.
Says he sews a single sequin
on his garment every time
something important happens.
He calls it the Sequins of Events.
He can see we were born
under the sign of Michael
Jackson’s hair in flames.
Each hair on your head,
he says, is a little circuit,
a limp lightning rod.
He strums a ukulele
strung with copper wire.
But when asked
if our visit this evening
will merit a new sequin
on his sleeve,
or even on his collar,
he hands us our batteries
and stares into the fire.

 ~ ~ ~

Iris Marble Cushing was born in Tarzana, California in 1983. She is an editor for Argos Books and for Circumference: A Journal of Poetry in Translation, both based in Brooklyn. In 2011, Iris was a writer-in-residence at Grand Canyon National Park. Her work has appeared in the Boston Review and other places.

Thanks to Iris for her contribution to the Tattooed Poets Project on Tattoosday!

This entry is ©2012 Tattoosday. The poem and tattoo are reprinted with the poet's permission. 

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