Monday, April 6, 2015

The Tattooed Poets Project: Michael Mlekoday

Our first Monday poet in this year's Tattooed Poets Project is Michael Mlekoday, who shared a few pretty cool pieces.

Before sharing them, I want to thank Tara Betts (appearing later this month), who referred me to Michael last year, after spotting his ink at the 2014 Association of Writers and Writing Programs conference in Seattle:

Photo by Tara Betts
I reached out to Michael to get some clearer shots and some background about his work. He credited his work to one shop:
"All of my tattoos are designed and inked by my fam Ryan & Naama at Lucky Bear Tattoo. They used to run their queer, family-operated business in Brooklyn, but recently moved to Northern California and will start tattooing in San Francisco soon. They’ve got an Instagram @luckybeartattoo."
Let's take a closer look:

Photo by Doug Paul Case

Michael explains:
"The fish/skyline tattoo is a drawing Ryan made called 'Big Fish / Big Pond.' I had him change it to my home skyline, Minneapolis. I grew up fishing, and even living in the city proper there were plenty of lakes and water (Minnesota has more shoreline than California, Florida, and Hawaii combined! sort of…), so it seemed fitting. The fish & skyline is a way of marking where my body comes from—August Wilson, after all, says that 'art is beholden to the kiln in which the artist was fired.' "
On his other arm:

Photo by Doug Paul Case

Photo by Doug Paul Case
Michael tells us:
"The other arm has a Mason jar with fireflies inside it, another homage to the Midwest, and a bear skull, which is an image from my first book of poems—The Dead Eat Everything. Though I’m a Midwest kid, born and raised, I’ve felt pulled towards the coasts for the past few years, which is the subject of my second poetry manuscript, currently titled Junk Turquoise, hence the oceanic background on my left arm."
Here's a poem Michael sent us:


Baba once cast a demon out of my brother.
She slapped him hard across the face
and left a glass of vodka
on the kitchen table overnight.
By morning, the glass was empty
and the rainclouds hung fat and fanged
over our block. Whenever it stormed,
she tongued her dentures out of her mouth
and sucked them back in, staring
out the window, and crossed herself,
cursing under her breath in Polish.

She taught us the old curses and the blessings,
brought us to the cemetery to practice both.
I was always better with the curses.
The way they had to be dragged
from the body, the odor
of sea salt stuck to the breath,
how they kicked the heart
like the pop of a burnt out bulb.

~ ~ ~

Michael Mlekoday is the author of The Dead Eat Everything (Kent State University Press, 2014). Mlekoday is a National Poetry Slam Champion, serves as Editor & Publisher of Button Poetry / Exploding Pinecone Press, and has poems in Verse Daily, Ploughshares, Ninth Letter, The BreakBeat Poets, and other venues. More poems and stuff at

Thanks to Michael Mlekoday for sharing his work with us here on Tattoosday's Tattooed Poets Project!

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

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1 comment:

Radish King said...

Oh! These tattoos are gorgeous and gorgeously wrought. Thank you.