Thursday, April 12, 2018

Jennifer MacBain-Stephens and Her Crows (The Tattooed Poets Project)

Our next tattooed poet is Jennifer MacBain-Stephens, who shared this tattoo:

Jennifer gives us a little background on this work:
"I recently had this tattoo redone and colored in. The first time I got a tattoo, it was of a burgundy tree on my back with my now ex-husband in Kyoto, Japan nine years ago. We were divorced this year and, as a Valentine's Day present to myself,  I had the tree colored in with black shading, and added the sunset colors and the escaping crows onto my shoulder. This touch-up represented rebirth and freedom to me and I couldn’t be happier with it."
Jennifer credited an artist named "Jay" in Manassas, Virginia, for the updating of the original tattoo.

She also sent us two poems, with the following introduction:
"[The poems] were inspired by meeting a new person in my life. At the time that I met this person I noticed what seemed like a lot of crows in my neighborhood and near my house. I’ve always loved crows but at this particular time, they seemed downright magical to me."

boy, muscle deliberate / sketches a body with eyes first / purpose precise as a prescription / a sliced birch tree / multitasking through the shredder / no emotion / no insecurity / he loops the black rope around and around her shoulder blades / her scapulae / the top of her rib cage / breath and focus and forward / no / no questions / no what if she this / or I don’t know if that / invigorating loop, tie, swoop, knot / again shows / makes / undone / repeat when he feels like it /

girl, a shivering bird cat / white skin in the alcove / not wanting to need / in her torso where the rope is present / like a shock blanket / he does not know he created this need in her / he works in this lab / always this hunger / need to fill / but with what / it’s this, no / it’s breath /  no / no / calm waters / a flit a flat and a rage song / fury energy explodes / rises to what / never wanting to undo / it’s this unbalance in the ocean / that keeps her moving forward / but stops her breath /

On Crow Number Symbolism (first published in Entropy)

The day that she thought it was over, the day she did not hear from him but could not reach out because her mouth was tied to itself, it was mid-morning and she looked for crows in the sky. If she saw a murder (a decision yet to be made) or two crows flying together, (a birth) she made herself believe it was a sign, (one girl) that she would see him again, (one boy) that he was in her future (her authentic, clairvoyant self.) But on this particular day, (foreboding rain) there was one crow, (death) a young one, (trickster) far from the forest, (journey) high up in a lone tree on a quiet street, calling the same caw pattern over and over again. (opening the door to the netherworld) Three caws. Stop. Three caws. Repeat.

No bird came. 
~ ~ ~

Jennifer MacBain-Stephens is the author of three full-length poetry collections: Your Best Asset is a White Lace Dress, (Yellow Chair Press, 2016) "The Messenger is Already Dead," (Stalking Horse Press, March 2017,) and We’re Going to Need a Higher Fence, tied for first place in the 2017 Lit Fest Book Competition. Her work has been nominated for Best of the Net and the Pushcart Prize. She is also the author of nine chapbooks. Her chapbook She Came Out From Under the Bed, (Poems Inspired by the Films of Guillermo del Toro) recently came out from Dancing Girl Press. Recent work can be seen at or is forthcoming from Prelude, Kestrel, Yalobusha Review, decomP, and Inter/rupture. Visit:

Thanks to Jennifer for sharing her tattoo and poems with us here on the Tattooed Poets Project!

To see our entire list of poets over the last ten years, please visit

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