Monday, April 18, 2016

Tammy Bendetti's Phoenix Soars [The Tattooed Poets Project]

Today's tattooed poet is Tammy Bendetti, who shared this unfinished, yet nonetheless spectacular back piece:

Tammy sent us a back story that addresses this work, as well as the poem she included:
By the time Paul Lunetta over at Fossil Tattoo [in Fruita, Colorado] began this piece, I'd been wanting it for a decade. Years before, the day after Senior Prom, I'd gone to the Texas coast with a group of my friends. It was sunny, we were giddy, and three of us swam out alongside the pier. We were unaware of the riptides that plagued that stretch of the beach, and the wind that was gradually picking up far out over the ocean. The waves became suddenly huge, and we realized just how far out we were. Pummeled by whitecaps and dragged backward, we were fighting to keep our heads up, much less make much progress toward land. My friend Ashley helped pull me in a little; then, our friend Yohance helped both of us in turn. This must have exhausted him. By the time I flagged down a child with a boogie board, Yohance was falling behind. Horrified, we watched him ride each swell upward, farther and farther out to sea. We couldn't turn back, lest all of us be drowned. Three days later, the Coast Guard found his body. 
I couldn't let survivor's guilt drag me under, too. Instead, I decided I had to make something of myself, but what did that even mean? I was already headed off to the University of the South in the fall. Everything felt drenched in meaning, everything a symbolic gesture. So I explored the forests. I overcame my anxiety and made dozens of friends. I drank too much, slept too little, learned a lot. It was one of the happiest times of my life. But after a heartbreak coincided with an illness, I flunked out. I had to move back in with my parents while I recuperated. They took good care of me, but I felt lost. Eventually I fell in love again and transferred to my local state college to finish my degree. By that time I was studying with a baby in my arms, in the depths of postpartum depression. That felt like drowning, too.

Today, I've married that second love, who buoys me up. We have two children. After seven years of silence, I started writing poetry again, and have begun painting in earnest. And I got this gorgeous ink across my back, which is still unfinished. That, too, seems symbolic. None of my victories have been what I've expected; I don't feel I've "found myself." I think we are unfinished works of art, always under revision, always waking up a little different. And that leaves room for hope. That's what this poem is about. 

The Things You Thought You Needed

Those golden slippers will not fit you

after your feet callous from gravel.

Your amulet to save you from witches

was hasty; it nips at your dreams

like papercuts, now that you’ve

started hoarding white sage, eyebright,

and rosemary. And all the men

on white horses that pass through this town

are looking for women sleepier than you,

who prefer their kisses stolen, not given,

who wake only to promises less pedestrian

than a dog’s warm lick and the thought

of sausages on a cast-iron pan.

~ ~ ~

Tammy Bendetti lives and works in Colorado with her husband and two teeny daughters. You can find her art at, and some of her recent publications at Thank You for Swallowing, Bitopia, and Pittsburgh Poetry Houses. Send her your best dance moves and weirdest dreams @SkylarkLover

Thanks to Tammy for sharing her story, her poem and her amazing tattoo with us here on the Tattooed Poets Project on Tattoosday!

This entry is ©2016 Tattoosday. The poem and tattoo are reprinted with the poet's permission.

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