Friday, April 28, 2017

Athena's Owl on Jennifer Martelli (The Tattooed Poets Project)

Our next tattooed poet is Jennifer Martelli, who shared this photo with us:

She tells us:
"I got this tattoo down in Hyannis, Massachusetts, at a great shop called Spilt Milk. A wonderful tattoo artist named Pablo did my very first tattoo there while I was on vacation, so when I returned a few years later, that’s where I went. I chose this design for a few reasons: first, I love owls (and cats—that beauty is Maria); second, this is Athena’s owl, and I love the fact that Athena was birthed from her father’s head; I love that she was a war goddess, that she wore a girdle made of snakes, and that she remained a virgin—all things that frighten me! My owl is consistent with two of my other tattoos, which are drawn with one single line in black ink. The only color tattoo I have is my purple Alzheimer’s ribbon on my wrist, in memory of my mother (that’s a whole different story)."
The poem Jennifer chose to accompany this tattoo is called, “Inversals,” and it was published in [PANK] last fall:



A woman, made famous after fellating a powerful man, dreams of Francis Ford Coppola’s oranges tearing a hole through her brown sack, bouncing past the crow perched on the curb cawing: Pa! Pa! Pa! Pa! Dreams of an orange slice covering the teeth of an old man with one bad eye under the black grape vineyard.  Of the rind pared off with a sharp knife into a perfect coil. Of the sections pulled apart like small bloody lungs, each an aspirated sigh. The oranges portend death by deals and death by bullets and death by garrote and lightning bolts. Dreams she excretes a senator a president a judge a river a volcano in Sicily.  She thinks, if only a mandolin played in the background of my life, it would be far less nuanced.  She’d eat black olives and fresh cheese; rice; sip espresso in bone demitasse. There would be windows in badly painted rooms, thick with white leaded paint. People would fall from the windows and she’d call them suicides or hopeful for some believed they could fly.  If a mandolin played, the fall would be profound. She’d look up from her lunch she’d spread on the lawn by the black grape vineyard:  the thick mozzarella, the squid ink vermicelli, the plums.


While at a poetry reading, she ponders how some women are born from their father’s heads and ask to remain virgins forever. Bunny Putnam, great-great-great-grandson of witch hunters and witch accusers, a man secure enough to be called Bunny, has a plaque on the wall at the Athenaeum, across from the bookshelves where the taxidermied owls sit, dusty. Women born from their fathers’ heads take on the worst aspects of their fathers: they brood like owls, awake all night and they hunt so silently any maps or photos taped to the wall fall off.  Or, fuses blow and a darkness drops so sudden you wonder, Did I die? or Am I truly not here? which is what the case is: truly, you are not here. Or truly, you did die because the sirens are wailing outside the Athenaeum. No one likes sitting in a pitch black room. No one likes crouching inside a hollow skull. Athena grew inside Zeus’s head and poked the bone plates with her spear until his pain caused lightning storms all over the North Shore. He swore never to swallow a woman again, even if he was caught philandering. She’d assumed Bunny was a woman, especially when trying to decide if she was here, or there, or with the owls. How strong he must have been to earn that moniker, Bunny: the gentlest, horniest beast of all that God made, the easiest prey.

~ ~ ~

Jennifer Martelli’s debut poetry collection, The Uncanny Valley, was published in 2016 by Big Table Publishing Company. She is also the author of the chapbook, Apostrophe and the chapbook, After Bird, forthcoming from Grey Book Press. Her work has appeared in Thrush, [Pank], Glass Poetry Journal, The Heavy Feather Review, and Tinderbox Poetry Journal. Jennifer Martelli has been nominated for Pushcart and Best of the Net Prizes and is the recipient of the Massachusetts Cultural Council Grant in Poetry. She is a book reviewer for Up the Staircase Quarterly, as well as a co-curator for The Mom Egg VOX Blog Folio.

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

This entry is ©2017 Tattoosday. The poem and tattoo are reprinted with the poet's permission.

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