"I got this Three of Swords tattoo -- on some level -- to mark the grief of this year, of all the losses piling on top of each other, the pandemic making even more vivid the disturbing social inequities & technological dysphoria & substratal loneliness in this country. In tarot, the Three of Swords card represents suffering from major heartbreaks or betrayals, feeling lonely or lost or both . . . hence the heart (seat of love & beauty & affection) pierced through with three swords, which is also often depicted in front of a stormy sky with rain pelting down, the way mourning feels inside of us. And who among us -- in this warring world -- has not been heart-riven?Depending on the day, depending on the mood, I name the three swords: childhood, heartbreak, health . . . or capitalism, patriarchy, white supremacy . . . or subjectivity, loneliness, death . . . or poetry, poetry, poetry . . . or Philomela, Antigone, Cassandra . . . or after those who have wounded me the most: P, J, K, or after those I have lost & miss: Carol, Sue, X. And, of course, I know I will keep on renaming them, because none of us know what our most profound penetrating incandescent woundings will be until the end. I also think it is meaningful that the swords -- tools of war -- pierce not into viscera, but into our symbol for interiority; the flesh of language against (in both senses) the mayhem of metal & 'progress'.Of course, when this tarot card is reversed -- which is how I see it -- it means some kind of reconciliation with pain, maybe forgiveness, maybe release or optimism. But I like -- either way -- that it's not a heart broken, but a heart wounded, and in an ongoing way. I think -- because we are addicted to narratives of transformation & transcendence -- that we are often too eager to be done with loss/pain/grief, to be healed, even though the ache reminds us of what we've held precious/irreplaceable, something or someone or some time that filled us with blooming.I don't buy the old adage that 'time heals all wounds;' rather, time gives us the space to learn how to better dialogue & dance with the pain, which remains. Whenever I get too precious, too tornadoed by how unintelligible and unfair the world, and am tempted to wish things were easier, that we could banish sadness . . . I remind myself that idealism is violent, and GOOD VIBES ONLY is a mantra of the repressed . . . and of something John Keats wrote in a letter: 'Do you not see how necessary a world of pains and troubles is to school an intelligence and make it a soul?'In my tattoo -- more classic in design & color than my other tattoos -- there are three flowers over the heart, and blood & rain (or tears) falling. I'm into its all-at-once wilding & smarting & opening & ablution. Also, my friend Aggie says the blood-tipped ends of the swords look like pencils, and that's a misrecognition I can get behind."
dawn credited the work to Orrin Hurley (@orrinhurley) from Three Kings Tattoo (@threekingstattoo) in Brooklyn, New York.
dawn also shared this poem, which appeared previously in The Los Angeles Review, Summer 2020:
We were too late. The knots of clay & kink
of thorn & prophecy of fur were cleared away & the sun
was already a dividend of glass facades and rearview mirrors.
Between people a line of some sort or another:
grocery line, bottom line, perforation, window sill, the edge
of the bed. Your guess is as good as mine. Between you and me
are 92 blocks, 18 subway entrances, technicolor jungle-print
tablecloths in a dollar store folded into perfect squares
and stacked one on top of the other like prayer books,
kids snaking circles in the waterless fountain while
snowy branches hook around the sky’s bloodless neck.
Between people a line of some sort or another: exit only lane,
exclamation point, barbed wire, zipper, mail slot, trench,
the circumference of your wrist. Between you and me
the problem of fathers, snack packs of applesauce,
the questions of the dead clinging to the wet landscape
of the living, and countless lottery machines curving
tiny numbers like the bones of our inner ears onto slips of paper,
scattered secrets, and an aisle in every hardware store
where assorted compendiums of nails hang suspended like dreams,
beautifully fallow as if they might be spared utility. Between people
a line of some sort or another: deadline, Uber ride, VIP access line, fire
line, hemline, referendum, lip. And above us, chiffon shifts
of swallows unfolding a way out of the infrastructure, but also
above us: the intimations of heaven & our estrangement,
and below the underpaid line cooks & dishwashers, wingless
& sweating. Ours is a ghost story. Ours is a luxury gone
sour and a love gone sweet. Ours are the nameless blooms
we keep calling by made-up names expedient and/or beautiful,
the hydrangeas head-heavy
………………………………………& woozy by the checkout.
~ ~ ~
This entry is ©2021 Tattoosday. The poem and tattoo are reprinted with the poet's permission.