Monday, April 29, 2019

Daniela Olszewska and Emily's Hatbox (The Tattooed Poets Project)

Our next tattooed poet is Daniela Olszewska, who sent the following photo of one of her tattoos:

Daniela related the story behind getting this, her first tattoo:
The first tattoo I ever got was a hatbox with the words 'As Syllable from Sound--' written on a ribbon wrapped around the box.
This tattoo happened in or near Amherst, Massachusetts about ten years ago. I don’t remember the name of the shop or the woman who gave me the tattoo, but she said something afterwards about that being her first week on the job.

The words are the last line of my favorite poem by my favorite poet (strikethrough text) writer, Emily Dickinson.

My school had given me a small travel grant to fly from Alabama to spend a couple of days in Amherst visiting the Dickinson museum and the libraries housing archives related to her life and work.

I remember that I saw Emily Dickinson’s hatbox in the museum, but I was not allowed to take a photo of it unless I applied for official permission from someone. I was told that I could sketch the hatbox. I am not good at drawing.

In my small travel grant proposal, I proposed using the research I gathered during this trip to write a play about visiting Amherst in the 21st century. I believe I used the term 'queering of the ghost story' in the proposal.

I remember that I wanted to buy a beer to take back to my hotel after I got the tattoo, but the liquor store owner wouldn’t except my (real, legitimate) ID. He pulled out this big book of what each state’s ID is supposed to look like to prove to me that my ID was a fake. In his defense the Alabama ID in his book was different from my Alabama ID, but I had received my Alabama ID from the (real, legitimate) Alabama government, and no one else ever questioned it, so I think it was probably an issue with his book.

The text on the tattoo ribbon is difficult to read (if your tattoo artist says your tattoo needs to be bigger, you should listen to her…).
This tattoo is on my upper back. I do not spend a lot of time looking at it. In summer, if I am wearing a sundress, strangers in the checkout line at Target or on the El will sometimes ask me what my tattoo says and I get taken aback.

I love my tattoo and the poem it comes from and Emily Dickinson. However, I don’t always feel like getting into the whole poem and Dickinson’s views on the nature of god and my views on the nature of god, so I sometimes just tell the strangers that my tattoo is a Bible verse or a memorial tattoo.
Daniela also sent the following poem:



Actually, well, a man helpfully
pried my fists open and explained

that The Department of Defense
had no use for these.

A set of tulips kept in a tower.

Rendered in Indianapolis,
I apologized internally.
I apologized infernally.

There is no ethical gender presentation under capitalism.

It’s tax season again.
Index, so death-math.
Tone is important.
How the brain interprets
                sounds signals shrillness, signals.


I don’t want to give the impression that I’m completely
anti-PhD. It’s just that I am suspicious of some

literary movements where the explanation
can be accused of being more interesting

than the writing itself.
            Interesting is a matter
of individual perspective, though.

Also, individual mood,
energy, economics, mercury.

This is an oversimplification.

I am thinking of jazz.
We’re on Easter Break. Thank God for Jesus.


I am heightened.
It is friendly.

Peddle this lemon.

    Indirectly, a perjure.

    Binge watche my twenties and thirties away.

Thicket. Cover.  
Okay, I’m ready.

What’s a symptom and what’s a mood.
Okay, I’m ready.

Please call instead of knocking.  



Skip Intro.

Blue tail.

Laced birds.


Red charger.

Of weekend.

Linen for delivery.

War Hair.

Court lonely.

Droplet. Dropet.

Exclamation tarot.

Reply all.

Spring fire and spirits.

Broken tower.

Love Statue.  

With fault.

~ ~ ~

Daniela Olszewska is the author of several books of poetry and short prose. Her physical self lives in Chicago, and her website lives at

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

This entry is ©2019 Tattoosday. The poem and tattoo are reprinted with the poet's permission.

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