Sunday, April 26, 2020

Nicholas Gulig on the Tattooed Poets Project

Today's tattooed poet is Nicholas Gulig, who shared these tattoos:

Nicholas described these pieces:
"I got my first tattoo in Khon Kaen, Thailand when I first met wife. I was finishing my dissertation by day and working as a bartender by night. Fon, my wife, was a server there, and so we worked together every day from about 3pm to 3am. The bar was often empty, so I’d bring books—poems mostly—to pass the time. One of the books I brought to with me was Richard Siken’s Crush. Wanting to improve her English, my wife would borrow these books from me and read them at the bar. She kept coming back to the last poem in the book, 'Snow and Dirty Rain,' asking me what lines meant and how to pronounce certain words. One night, late, we decided to walk across the street to a small tattoo parlor on the corner to get tattoos together. I chose a line from the poem she loved and had it translated into Thai. In English the line reads: 'a love that transcends hunger.' And in Thai: 'A love that is north of hunger.' My second tattoo, the coordinates, point to the shore of a lake in Canada where I spread my father’s ashes."
Nicholas sent us the following, as well:


For months I wanted to take you to the wrecking place. The light goes shaking there and enters. In unison, down below the fury and the beauty. Take me up and I will take you back to anywhere that you remember fondly, a field of rock encrypted in your neck, the place the wind goes killing in, an actual locality. It doesn’t matter. Then, when the letters of our names are stitched together, almost singular, it does. In this the spell the weather casts can cull at will the temple left to rot atop the mountain. There where the water doesn’t touch. Can cast us thus ashore 

Recently the waves have started to go out. I put my foot in the sand and the sand is made of light, so I put my face away. It’s not supposed to be like this. I put my wrist against my other wrist and nothing happens. The waves push further out, more black, as if the land was not itself, not even terrible or able to be spelled. Spilling back and forth, the mind across the hard horizon, changes, your voice becoming colder, more irregular, the antithesis of sun, dark glass we strung with copper wire from the trees, small jewels in which the light had space enough to twitch

In the space around the joy the darkest thought is bettered by your asking of the dark to carve a path behind you, a doorway in a forest painted blue. Lift the branches up. Clash and grind and scatter. Above us, nothing less is still enough to spin a wish into the sky. Here, where even stones are eyes to set within our heads if we arrange the symbols underwater. Constructing answers out of clamor, out of scratch. So much as we have known, your throat within the house like however many ghosts, an absolute in which the faces of the dead are windows. Facing upward, one of them is open   

As for this, the actual subtracting of the attic from the stone foundation, enter blindly and in love a middle place. Keep your faith in wreck. Even gods grow smaller here, less quiet. Kill the quiet when you speak and then pretend it’s not the magic but the math which makes you miss it. My enemy, my empty. Forgive me if I shake, here where the water edges past us and draws back, I want to cage a bird beneath your dress and listen. Mostly it is echo. Mostly drone the music makes of us and so we make again in unison, the dark and not dark stitched together, a circle woven into other circles 

                                                    opened into // wound

~ ~ ~

Nicholas Gulig is a Thai-American poet from Wisconsin. The author of North of Order, Book of Lake, and Orient, ​he currently teaches at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater and lives in Fort Atkinson, WI with his wife and daughters.

Thanks to Nicholas for sharing his tattoos and poem with us here on the Tattooed Poets Project on Tattoosday!

This entry is ©2020 Tattoosday. The poem and tattoo are reprinted with the poet's permission.

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