Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Jenny Boychuk and Time on The Tattooed Poets Project

Readers may be wondering, where do we find all these tattooed poets? Every year I email people in the poetry community, not knowing whether they are tattooed or not. Often, they are not, but they occasionally refer me to other talented tattooed individuals who are.

Such was the case with Jenny Boychuk, our next tattooed poet, who reached out to me after I had asked Tarfia Faizullah if she was interested.

Jenny was kind enough to send us the following tattoo:

 Jenny told us about this piece:
"I got this tattoo at Urge Studios in Victoria, British Columbia. I was a year out of college, working at a coffee shop, and had just found out that I hadn't been admitted to any of the MFA writing programs I'd applied to. I was preparing to move back to rural British Columbia, where I grew up, to live with my parents for a year so that I could focus on writing and apply to MFA programs for the second (and last) time. Everything felt uncertain. My roommate (a close friend who is also a writer) had just been admitted to an MFA program at Cornell University, so she was getting ready to move to Ithaca, NY. We were both a little heartbroken to be leaving our cozy apartment and life in downtown Victoria, where we spent our weekends browsing used bookstores and eating takeout on our silver, over-sized couch while we talked about books and writing. For the first time in my life, I didn't know what I was going to do next. I didn't know what I was going to do if I didn't get into any MFA programs. I was in love with poetry and I was obsessed with time. It didn't seem like there was going to be enough of it. Falling in love with poetry made me feel like I wasn't going to have the chance to do everything I wanted to do. To write everything I wanted to write. I felt rushed. Everything felt like a race. So I got this tattoo to remind myself that time is a social construct. To remind myself that it can be broken. To remind myself to be present. To remind myself that it all takes as long as it takes."
Jenny also shared a poem with us. An earlier version of it was previously published in Salt Hill:


The blue whale sinks
beneath every layer of earth,
silt, & clay. Dead miles ago,
she decomposes as she descends.
Eventually, she’ll fall into a bed
of sand & weed, where bottom-
feeders will swallow her
tongue, abolish her history.


Memory: eight years old
& conjuring death. Curtain
of darkness, purest black ocean:
sweep across my mirror. Thread
this needle. A question, pulled
from my mouth & shrouded
by ghostly hands: Does a person
live to be 100? 

In a cedar cottage on a lake
I wished I could open myself for,
I held his pulse against the roof
of my mouth with my tongue.
I thought he’d go on forever
or just stop. I couldn’t tell
if it was dark outside—


A star dies just before I fall
into sleep. I hope to God
somewhere, someone watched
that light erupt from its cloaked sky
& pushed a single bead
across an abacus.


In a drawer there’s a photo
of my mother looking
exactly like me. In a drawer
there’s one of me looking
older than I can imagine.


The ocean falls still. The word
origin rolls off your tongue
& slips through the meniscus
which does not ripple.


In the kitchen, the ghost
of my grandmother
is baking bread. Guilt swells
against her teeth like a bit
tongue. She hears the thunder
doubled-over with hunger,
but no matter how much
yeast she folds in, the dough
won’t rise—


Somewhere there’s
a galaxy with an Earth
where the oceans
release themselves
from the grip of their moon
& like this
the blue whales fall

then rise, & rise, & rise.

~ ~ ~

Jenny Boychuk holds an MFA in poetry from the University of Michigan Helen Zell Writers' Program, where she is currently a Zell Fellow. Her poems have appeared in Best New Poets 2016, Salt Hill, The Pinch, Prairie Fire, Room, Birdfeast, and elsewhere. You can find her on Twitter @jennyboychuk.

Thanks to Jenny for sharing her tattoo and poem with us here on Tattoosday's Tattooed Poets Project!
And thanks to all you other poets out there who have sent talented writers like Jenny our way!

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

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