Literary tattoos
Aug 1st, 2009 by alexfaye

IMG_0071Well, on my 52nd birthday, I’m getting my second tattoo — I’m thinking of two different poems.

Conscientious Objector, Edna St. Vincent Millay

I shall die, but
that is all that I shall do for Death.

I hear him leading his horse out of the stall;
I hear the clatter on the barn-floor.
He is in haste; he has business in Cuba,
business in the Balkans, many calls to make this morning.
But I will not hold the bridle
while he clinches the girth.
And he may mount by himself:
I will not give him a leg up.

Though he flick my shoulders with his whip,
I will not tell him which way the fox ran.
With his hoof on my breast, I will not tell him where
the black boy hides in the swamp.
I shall die, but that is all that I shall do for Death;
I am not on his pay-roll.

I will not tell him the whereabouts of my friends
nor of my enemies either.
Though he promise me much,
I will not map him the route to any man’s door.
Am I a spy in the land of the living,
that I should deliver men to Death?
Brother, the password and the plans of our city
are safe with me; never through me Shall you be overcome.


The next one is a lifetime favorite; I know this e.e. cummings poem by heart.

dive for dreams
or a slogan my topple you
(trees are their roots
and wind is wind)

trust your heart
if the seas catch fire
(can live by love
though the stars walk backward)


honor the past
but welcome the future
(and dance your death
away at this wedding)

never mind a world
with its villains and heroes
(for god loves girls and tomorrow
and the earth)

The lines that are in bold are the lines may end up inked on my collar bone or my arm…still trying to decide.  A third choice may emerge.  I always have loved that angry Margaret Atwood poem:

We fit together/like a hook and eye/a fish hook/an open eye

Aug 1st, 2009 by alexfaye

From the time I was about 24 or 25, I began to secretly hope that I would someday have a daughter, and if I ever did, I would name her Madeline.  I met her father a year or two later, and then my Madeline, who apparently had been hanging out on a cloud somewhere, saw her opportunity and got herself born.

On her 18th birthday, we celebrated with tattoos…of course, I got Madeline.

“In an old house in Paris
that was covered with vines
lived twelve little girls
in two straight lines
in two straight lines
they broke their bread
and brushed their teeth
and went to bed…
The smallest one
was Madeline
She was not afraid of mice
She loved winter, snow and ice,
to the tiger in the zoo
Madeline just said, “Pooh-pooh!”
And nobody knew so well
how to frighten Miss Clavel.”

–Ludwig Bemelmans

(To hear the story read to you by a 2-year old child, check this link:  Susanna reads Madeline)

Photograph by Madeline

Photograph by Madeline

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