Saturday, April 14, 2018

Caitlin Roach and the Letter J (The Tattooed Poets Project)

Today's tattooed poet is Caitlin Roach, who shared this very simple tattoo:

Caitlin tells us about her ink:
"When I first met my husband, transcendent essayist José Orduña, we fell fast and hard in love. A couple weeks in he told me he wanted me to tattoo him–something boundless and chaotic, whatever I thought of in the moment–an infatuated request of pure impulse. The only calculated part of the plan was that we would tattoo one another. We had a no. 2 pencil, a sewing needle, thread, and some India ink, and Bill Callahan played from tinny laptop speakers as I scribbled something on his arm as an outline. The tattoo I started that night (it really was a scribble, a non-thing) didn’t get finished. The popping sound of the needle entering his skin with each poke nauseated us both. We never switched turns, and we decided we would finish another time. 
Four years later we were married, his tattoo still unfinished and mine yet started. The night of our one-year wedding anniversary, in Albuquerque where we were living at the time, on another impulsive whim, we sat at our kitchen table with a needle, a pencil, some thread, and the same bottle of ink. We would finish the job we started and add something additional to mark our first year of marriage. I ended up with a small, lower-case j on my wrist, he with a c on his. I never completed his scribble, and it’s still unfinished. 
A friend of ours noticed them once and asked if we 'paid about 50 cents' for them, noting they looked like they’d fallen off the table and landed in our laps. Mine’s gritty and inexact and looks more like a fish hook than a j. But it’s a permanent artifact of that night and I love that. It’s like its own little voice on my wrist, always calling my attention and getting it because I notice it several times a day. I love that, amidst all the rational calculation that directs so much of our lives, there’s still an impulsive spontaneity that surfaces up between us. My husband swears he’s done with homemade tattoos, but I’m not so certain. I just need to upgrade on materials–maybe learn how to make a proper (still homemade) tattoo gun."
Caitlin shared the following poem, as well:

Dirge for ice sheets receding

Everything bends to you. Even the creeping

sedum slows to apprehend you, splitting cracks

more open at your passing to wrest what notice
might still exist inside you. The last living box

elder, hunkered resolute in the corner, flickers
in its moldy hull like a twitch, knowing nothing

but awaits you. Somewhere yarrow readies itself
to stanch the blood you’ll let from it and airs its

sweetness still to solicit even your indifference.
All those Julys spent damp in the fern room

where the egg fruit swelled and swung adjacent
to the drunkard’s dream, dancing bones glutting

deep yellow bells swinging, kept me on my knees.
The weeping fig never clapped a tear from its glossy

stem then. Still you bent to stroke forth shame from
the touch-me-not to see the plant’s spines rise,

to watch it live up its name round your finger.
Haven’t I been this sensitive. I’ve seen black

blacken in the center of you. I’m not trying to
capture light. I’m after the dark bit dumbed by

the brightness flanking all sides but still whirls
around its own dark heart, purging impractical

fractions. That, or the velvet ice slats slipping
away from their silver throats so surely I cannot

buck the thawing, I can never remember. Anything
but the clasp. But the bells’ wet din.

Copyright (c) 2018 by Caitlin Roach; first appeared on

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Caitlin Roach earned an MFA in poetry from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. Her poems appear or are
forthcoming in Best New Poets 2017, Poetry Northwest, Tin House, Colorado Review, The Journal, West Branch, Copper Nickel, Prelude, Handsome, and The Iowa Review. You can find her at

Thanks to Caitlin for sharing her poem and tattoo with us here on The Tattooed Poets Project on Tattoosday!

This entry is ©2018 Tattoosday. The poem and tattoo are reprinted with the poet's permission.

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