Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Today's tattooed poet is Kimberly Mahler, who sent along this tattoo:

Kimberly credits this bright colorful work to artist Erik Rieth, co-owner of Seventh Son Tattoo in San Francisco. The poem below is an unpublished work she is including in a manuscript centered around her raising her 11-year old autistic son, seen in this photo with the tattoo above.

The poem relates to her getting her first tattoo:
Stigmata of Spring

In a room full of men I remove my shirt and lie down.
Feel but don’t meet their gaze.
The needle whirrs a little, a test.

Close my eyes and see mother working at the Singer
December afternoons before bartending nights,
tired of us looking thwarted and poor.

Smell my blood mix with ink and adrenaline.
Arousing to be the object of keen attention.
For hours I am a still nude.

As girls my friends and I would trace letters
on each other’s bare backs with our fingertips.
Excuse to give affection in our parentless homes.

I surrender to the electricity and his tender hands
that sketch and sew an iris and its purple vulva
into my back and blade.  No words. The needle’s hum

is a vow, drowning jerry-rigged lovers and son,
flogging my flaws and scars. To bear the sacred
and taboo: an iris ardent enough to flavor gin.

He cleans and bandages my back like a hurt child.
Instructions, a swirl of pride and empathy,
for now it’s mine to carry, heal, and love.

Eventually, the iris bleeds, crackles, shimmies out nubile,
my stigmata of spring.  It draws the hands of lovers
and my son, who puts his lips to it and whispers “tattoo.”
~ ~ ~

Kimberly included a small photo of the piece in question, as well:

She elaborates:

"The iris was my first tattoo completed in 2007. It was a one session--four hour odyssey of sorts. I had never seen someone get tattooed, and was pondering why Erik was using so much red ink for a purple flower... yep, that was my blood, not ink. Over the years Erik and I developed a friendship and continued work on my shoulder in 2008 and the cherries February 2011.

I know the next one is going to be a large hip/thigh sea dragon piece, but that's a ways off. 

For me to be ready to get a tattoo, three elements have to be in line: my artist Erik has to want and like the idea, I have to be ready (both financially and emotionally) and the time commitment and passion for the design have to be there. When all are in line, it's a magical sort of experience. I give him ideas, he designs the piece and then we get down to work. I couldn't have anyone else do my work now; it just wouldn't be the same. [...] He co-owns a shop in San Francisco that just did a benefit for Japan, raising $7,000. Cool place. http://www.seventhsontattoo.com. Erik and the shop Seven Son Tattoo are both also on Facebook. 

There's definitely a connection between tattooing and writing for me. This is the only poem that I've written that is about tattooing (at least on the surface). However, both writing and getting a tattoo require a leap of sorts: a stepping off of the known. Both require a loss of control which lay the foundation for original art both on the body and the page."
Thanks to Kimberly for sharing her tattoos, poetry and photos with us here on Tattoosday!
Kimberly Mahler’s recent work has appeared in, 5AM, DMQ Review, My Baby Rides the Short Bus anthology, Naugatuck River Review, The International Psychoanalysis Poetry Monday and Cimarron Review.  She recently received a residency at the Ragdale Foundation in Chicago. Kimberly has taught college-level writing and literature in the San Francisco Bay Area for 17 years and is the director of The International Poetry Library of San Francisco She lives on the coast, a few miles north Half Moon Bay, CA with her son Harrison.

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