Sunday, April 29, 2018

My Maneki-neko (The Tattooed Poets Project)

It is the penultimate day of April, and I have completed submissions for one remaining poet, set for tomorrow. But what about today? Every year, I reach out to dozens and dozens of poets, and I have never struggled as mightily as this year to assemble our lineup. Every year, there are always a handful of rollovers for next year (or the year after), but I generally have spilled over into May. This year, there was a hole at the end of the month, so I've decided to selfishly fill it.

So, dear readers, today's tattooed poet is a returning contributor, William Dickenson Cohen, who first contributed in 2009 here.

This past February, I was at the Philadelphia Tattoo Arts Convention, and I left with this guy on my forearm:

This is a customized version of a Maneki-neko cat. Most folks may recognize the basic image from Asian-owned businesses, who have these cats, with waving paws, in their storefronts. The cat is meant to bring success and good fortune and, growing up in Hawai'i, they were everywhere.

Here's the one we've had in our home since the early 1990's, which survived several California earthquakes, and still diligently stands guard:

So, when I knew I was going to Philly, and learned that artist JJ Ohlinger from Prohibition Ink was working the show, I discussed the possibility of getting work from him when I was there. I told him I had wanted a Maneki-neko, and gave him free reign to come up with a design. He drew up two, changing the piece that features kanji to resemble a Pabst Blue Ribbon can. He said he looked through my Facebook feed and mostly saw posts relating to politics and beer, and he didn't think he could work our president into the cat design.

Post-tattoo with JJ Ohlinger (right) at the Philadelphia Convention
At the Philadelphia convention, the stars aligned and JJ was able to fit me in. The result is a quirky, colorful Maneki-neko which I hope will bring good fortune and future success to me and my family.

Back in 2009, when I snuck my own tattoo and poem into the first year of the Tattooed Poets Project, I diligently worked on a tattoo-related sestina, which I was thinking would be appropriate to re-share. I recently read it in public for the first time, and it was well-received. I decided against re-posting it but, if you're interested, you can find it here.

Instead, I offer up this new poem, hastily composed last Friday when it looked like I was going to need to fill a hole in our line-up:

Tattoo Poem

My epitaph will be tattooed
Into something more permanent

Than flesh.

But we’re kidding ourselves
If we think permanence
Is anything but temporary.

We are all data, with half-

Some shorter than others.

The red ink on my thigh
Is “falling out,” as they say,
The cells expelling molecules

Why decompose
A poem
When words wriggle like worms
Into the mud?

Blood is swept away
As the tattooer stretches the flesh
More molecules
Disappearing into some other form
Like fading stains on the sidewalk.

I hum along to the needle’s song.
The melody is beautiful
And the machines, buzzing their approval,

Sting and sing again,
Reminding us we are alive

In the moment
Before we disappear forever.

~ ~ ~

Please return tomorrow for our final post of the 2018 Tattooed Poets Project, and thank you for allowing me to share my newest tattoo and poem here on Tattoosday!

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1 comment:

richard lopez said...

hi, i'm a tattooed poet living in northern california, and i am a big fan of your annual tattooed poets feature. i look forward to it every year. thank you for your energy, time and enthusiasm for both tattoos, and especially poetry. keep up the great work, please. if you have another hole to fill in your tattooed poets line up i'm very happy to recommend the names of a few tattooed poets that i know and love. please keep up your very good work. i look forward to seeing who you have in store for us next year.