Saturday, April 25, 2015

The Tattooed Poets Project: Virginia Chase Sutton

Virginia Chase Sutton first appeared on the Tattooed Poets Project in 2013 here.

She's returning in 2015 with the following tattoo to share:

Virginia tell us:
"It was a little, tiny shop in Dublin, by an Italian artist who barely spoke English---I don't know the name of the shop or of the artist.
It measures 4 inches by 4 inches on the back of my left shoulder.  The colors are stunning, really, purples and lavenders and green.  I got the tattoo, along with my 17 year old daughter's first tattoo, the Chinese symbol for winter.  It was a long process, quite exhausting, but he promised me I'd adore the result.  And I do.  The shop did not take credit cards and I only had about $20 in Irish money, not enough, and not enough even for a tip.  'Is enough,' he said cheerily.  And so it was."
Virginia sent us this poem:


I want to be your tattoo buddy, my 16-year-old daughter says in the icy hostel in February. Trip on a whim, just enough cash, and we wander the city, find a shop on a forlorn side of town. Up a flight of narrow stairs to an empty, exhausted landscape---a waiting room with a slew of notebooks of flash art and a tattered couch. I’m thinking of a man who tells me once about a homemade tattoo his cousin gives him---concocting ink from cigarette ash, using staples torn from a magazine as needles. The tap, tap, tapping drives him nuts with pain and he begs his cousin to stop, tattoo unfinished. Here, my daughter goes first, the Chinese symbol for winter on her left hip, a good choice. I choose a one-inch lotus blossom for my left shoulder blade. Done, she collapses on the couch, waves me on. The Italian artist barely speaks English, is the only one in the joint. He sits me on a wobbly stool after applying the transfer. You have good tattoos, I think he says. So don’t move. He begins slowly. I lean forward, keeping the stool in place. It’s a dance. I bend lower and lower, then he re-inks his silver machine, and I bend again. This biting goes on and I lose myself to pain. Why, I wonder, is this taking so long? Finally complete, I reach for traveler’s checks but he shakes his head. I pull out Irish cash---it isn’t enough. Is okay, he says with an angel’s smile. Back at the hostel, my shoulder burns. Why, I ask my daughter, who is patting Neosporin on her little tattoo. In the bathroom, I yank off my bandage, look over my shoulder in the mirror. Gasp at the huge purple and lavender lotus blossom climbing my back. It was supposed to be so small, I say, stunned by the 4 x 4 inch design carved in my flesh. It hurt like hell, I tell her as she applies ointment. The large and the small, the old and the young, the symbol and the flower. How he makes me sign a paper adding two years so she is legal, not even asking for our passports as proof. So I say no regrets, and she smiles happily, pants slipping down, admiring how we lost ourselves, busy discovering art.

~ ~ ~

Virginia Chase Sutton’s book What Brings You to Del Amo won the Morse Poetry Prize. Her first book is Embellishments.  Five times nominated for a Pushcart Prize, her poems have appeared in Paris Review, Ploughshares, Antioch Review, Boulevard, Western Humanities Review, Witness, Naugatuck River Review, the anthology ThroughA Distant Lens, and many other literary publications. 

Thanks to Virginia for her return to Tattoosday and the Tattooed Poets Project!

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

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