Single-City Tattoo Projects

Pride-of-Place + Poetry + Tattoos = A collaborative celebration of community and a commitment made visible.

The ________________ of the Universe: A Love Story
by Bianca Spriggs
Read the Poem >

­The __________ of the Universe: A Love Story
by Bianca Spriggs

It was beyond midnight when she showed up at The Crossroads of the Universe
          his back door and asked him to take her on The Sunday Drive of the Universe
                    a ride through backroads out past Elkhorn Creek. It would be  The Honeymoon of the Universe
          just like the night she wore  The Sequined Leotard of the Universe
a neon wig and her favorite leopard print heels but lost one at The Truck Stop of the Universe
          The Dame, which tended to smell like The Armpit of the Universe
                    a careless night out with friends. She blushed at  The Mating Call of the Universe
          his suggestion that instead they throw a dance party for two as bottom-shelf as The Underrated Wine of the Universe
the cheap seats on the opening day of Keeneland. He told her that the first time seeing The Secret Identity of the Universe
          her under the golden gingko tunnel on Catalpa St. felt like finding  The Long Lost Left Sock of the Universe
                    the perfect peach in the Farmer’s Market before brunch on a Saturday after The B-List Cult Movie of the Universe
          Rocky Horror the night before at the Kentucky Theatre. The Wishbone of the Universe
And perhaps a stroll past Triangle Park’s cascading fountain could be a quest to discover The Middle Name of the Universe
          all the daydreams they’d ever dream to light the city up like The Signal Flare of the Universe
                    a handful of lightning bugs backed by a choir of cicadas. The Roadside Attraction of the Universe
          She knew his gravitational pull would lead to nothing but The Hangover of the Universe
wandering around downtown all the way from Charlie Brown’s The Candy Heart of the Universe
          to the Lexington Cemetery. They might drift to Short St. where Gallerie Soleil The Errant Nipple Hair of the Universe
                    used to be. Maybe they’d have enough time to join The Dregs of the Universe
          the 3 AM crowd at Tolly Ho and order The Love Jones of the Universe
all the deep fried delicacies they could eat. She’d always be willing to risk The One Night Stand of the Universe
          heartburn for him. It was settled. He couldn’t resist her wonky winking eye The Recalled Part of the Universe
                    any more than he could resist entering the enchanted forest in The Bellybutton of the Universe
          the UK Arboretum. They held hands down Broadway The Sweet Potato Vine of the Universe
all the way to Gratz Park and were so busy telling one another The Knock Knock Joke of the Universe
          how great the other looked in that creamsicle sheathe of streetlamp light The Compact Mirror of the Universe
                    they forgot all about why they left in the first place. Something about taking The Dark Ride of the Universe
          the long way. Something about putting down deep roots in the thin soil of The Waiting Room of the Universe
their hometown.  

Inked forever on the bodies of 253 residents of Lexington, KY is a love letter to the city they call home.

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Jessica Winters' "A Love Story"

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Kristin Combs' "of the Universe" and George Birk's "The Knock Knock Joke"

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Valerie Caldwell's "The Hangover"

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Wayne Turner's "Of the Universe"

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Enrique Jordan's "of the Universe" (Enrique is Wayne's brother)

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Gary Smith's "downtown"

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Hendrick Floyd--the image made by all the dots and circles of all the tattoos
Boulder Zodiac
by Anne Waldman
Read the Poem>

­nuanced light, coyote yips
full Sagittarian moon's clear shadow
you might spook yourself, seething centaur
drawing up the Boulder dawn into your chest
your lungs, take aim, it's your own heart

city of choice, of modernity, of ancient creeks
a few miles from Continents, Divide
and Arapahoe mystic native lore,
great-homed Capricious ones party here,
where Rockies crash Great Plains

where granite meets bone and Aquarius sheds
his water semi-arid land thirsts for
let it come down, sweet, dramatic, sudden
let it gather and snow melt lift the Great Platte
river is your life, your guardian

largemouth bass got lucky, and then not so
stocked out by Walden Pond, silvery,
the Piscean transmigratory life,
the way we see through water miles from it
land-locked, but look up at primordial Flatirons,

feel irony of topological wrench, of negative ions,
clarity, your mind stays high and clear
leads the pack, you are Aries
the "agrarian worker, and you settled here
to see the future ride the terrifying Dark Age

here in humility where poetry
thrives, where a warm chinook carries
gentle tread of the inscrutable bull down from Heaven,
a Buddha, who stops and sits, Taurus mind
of "negative capability,"

comfortable in doubt, in curiosity, study of
place, flora, fauna, every columbine flower,
Indian Paintbrush, cottonwood tree, Stellar, s Jay
mind doubles, being Gemini sees "both both" mirrored
in struggle, flames licking at canyon mouth, flood warning

crises at the gate! move to higher ground, rescue
meteorological archive of topological shift, note coming
hard times, scarcity of water on diffident Crab whose job is to scuttle
over surface, dig in, soul mate to the prairie dog perhaps who
surveys the environs with keen eye, raise a ruckus!

for mountain lion also, be sure to go asymmetrical
not tum your body, make loud noise, back away
honor his kinghood in these parts, roaming
Bald Mountain, 0 hungry Leo, lokapala of this berg
citizens, guard your house pets, do not be careless

honor the great open space, honor semblance of wilderness
Virgin wildflower, first bud of spring, close to tundra
once ocean and you feel pull of tide
another equinoctial moon over the downtown Mall,
Tibet's magic shop, bookstore to browse, diverse eateries

share the wealth, education, sporting life, don't mess with
balance of tolerance, keep Scales aligning, remember habitat is
your ecos- your house, your hearth- your ecology -your health
tip the scales and you go down, Libra, stay
wise, proactive, run the marathon, save the planet

from itself, do no harm, transcendent friend!
spiritual Boulder! aspirational Boulder! inspiring
with new age awareness slow growth ethos, reinventing
herself as the Scorpion does, grows back her tail in intricate
iteration, will not sting but seductively beckon ....

Memorial Day 2013
People's Republic of Boulder,
Copyright 2013 by Anne Waldman

Like the Lexington Tattoo Project, the Boulder Tattoo Project is a love letter written with indelible ink on the skin of people who call Boulder home.

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Manzi Fine's "to see"

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Rita Batiste's "Tibet's magic shop"

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Phil McLean's "through water"

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Jana Engelbreth’s “and you feel”

078 Mariah Hamang IMG_3131--use.jpg

Mariah Hamang's "you settled here"

060 Janel Magistro IMG_2554.jpg

Janel Magistro's "the way we see"

023 Bradley Spann IMG_4210.jpg

Bradley Spann's "mystic native"

198 Allison Frey IMG_3678.jpg

Allison Frey's "in intricate iteration"
Seven Hills and a Queen To Name Them
by Chase Public
Read the Poem>

Seven Hills and a Queen to Name Them

 

I always say a prayer
when I see you through
the cut in the hill,
my drama Queen City.

You swam in bourbon and blues
and called your song the river.
I doused myself in your laughter.
Now I climb hilltop woods
and stone halos
to find an unabridged view.

You’re an artist until proven innocent.
I reached for your hand in a gallery
with a painting named Springtime.

You stood me in the northern light
of a Court Street window
and made a photograph.
You made away with me.

 

*******

 

Cincinnati was first spoken by the mouth
of the Licking, in a bend
of the good river, the Ohio.
A city lifted by the genius of water.

Who can know this place,
its streets laid out with the peculiar vision
of constellation charts? Let’s draw our own maps:
triangulate the bells of every parish,
sketch neighborhoods that overlap zip codes.
Buy a cone at every summertime stand,
blow a horn at every pawn shop,
eat barbecue and slaw at every smoker
while we sift through the small talk:
Which chili parlour? West side or east?
State or commonwealth? What high school?

Can anyone say where our city ends?
The Queen shares her crown
with the northern South
and all who call her home.
Our city’s limits are carved in hearts, not stone.

 

*******

 

The Queen dreamed out loud,

Mama’s gonna pull history from the buildings,
roll it out on the street for you to see
original brick, hidden under siding, under asphalt.
Story on story, hoisting us higher into history.

Mama’s gonna open bar doors, stretch the taps out
to the sidewalk, pour drafts for drinkin’.
Light the sacred glass in blooms of stonework
and paint the streets like a beer bottle mosaic.

Mama’s gonna build a boat bigger than Noah’s,
a wheel and tall stacks, to whistle your name.
Plow the lonely barge lanes in winter
and hop-skip the river boat to boat when fireworks fly.

Mama wants to make it happen.
Mama’s doin’ it for you.

 

*******

 

Corn-fed pig town.
You taught me three-ways, goetta fests
and pony kegs. Bengal shouts in winter winds.

You taught me to Ezzard Charles,
to jab, weave and strike like a cobra.
To throw myself out of the corner and into the fight.

To cheer into the river night
with the ghosts and golden spirits
of Crosley Field, a palace to the fans.
Throat sore, eyes too full of light.

You taught me to avoid the tag,
to sing the knotted history of the hit king
with a stubborn tongue.
To slide head-first into home.

 

*******

 

I came for the magic and stayed
for the music. Heard your trumpet calls,
symphonies and syncopations.

I let a stranger sing to me,
lines that told the truth like graffiti
over sanctioned street art.
She phrased a phrase too charged to hold key.

Music reaches down the one-ways from a public stage,
rebounds off homes from church festivals.
Brick, here, is a canvas for revolution,

a reawakening of sweat and spirit.
The site of the blacksmith off Ridge is now
a record store, hammer clang to cymbal crash.
Time goes by, places change, the rhythm pushes on.

 

*******

 

The fog rolls over the night hills—
not every hill, but here.
Rolls in and hides the limits of the night.

I drive Montgomery Road to our centennial house.
From the porch, I hear the baby cry,
a new squall storming old plaster.

Joining the wind, an anthem
to our alma mater. In my arms,
I shush with wordless whispers
and no magic, sounds to settle
an arrival home.

This street, where puddles splash. On this hill,
with no historic name, one among many,
the fog paddles on into memory.

 

*******

 

Home. The name of a surprising house,
its numbers bright as jewels.

There’s a title for every square foot
of this city. We call them all again.
Reclaim them. Choosing a name
is a declaration of intent.

But it’s uncertain magic.
Cincinnati, named for the leader who cast aside
his sword when the war was won.
Named for power surrendered, and power is surrendered
in time. Swords not laid down will one day drop.

We who had been torn, stirred, packed down,
formed and baked into the brick of change,
are now referred to as able—
spoken of when pointing to progress.
The mystery unwinds but doesn’t unravel.

 

*******

 

Cincinnati is a promise that we make
to our inner selves,
and I promise
there are still stories
to tell and to tell.
Streets to walk, and corners,
like the city , to come around.

Marry me in Eden Park,
Lay with me at Spring Grove.
It would be beautiful.

You’re the heart in my wrist,
the arrow on my chest.
I tried to draw you some mysterious name
but you turned my line
into a circle around us.

Sing the Queen City.
Say home.
Coast the long cut.
Cross that bridge.

 

*******

 

I always say a prayer
when I see you through
the cut in the hill,
my drama Queen City.

You swam in bourbon and blues
and called your song the river.
I doused myself in your laughter.
Now I climb hilltop woods
and stone halos
to find an unabridged view.

You’re an artist until proven innocent.
I reached for your hand in a gallery
with a painting named Springtime.

You stood me in the northern light
of a Court Street window
and made a photograph.
You made away with me.

 

*******

 

Cincinnati was first spoken by the mouth
of the Licking, in a bend
of the good river, the Ohio.
A city lifted by the genius of water.

Who can know this place,
its streets laid out with the peculiar vision
of constellation charts? Let’s draw our own maps:
triangulate the bells of every parish,
sketch neighborhoods that overlap zip codes.
Buy a cone at every summertime stand,
blow a horn at every pawn shop,
eat barbecue and slaw at every smoker
while we sift through the small talk:
Which chili parlour? West side or east?
State or commonwealth? What high school?

Can anyone say where our city ends?
The Queen shares her crown
with the northern South
and all who call her home.
Our city’s limits are carved in hearts, not stone.

 

*******

 

The Queen dreamed out loud,

Mama’s gonna pull history from the buildings,
roll it out on the street for you to see
original brick, hidden under siding, under asphalt.
Story on story, hoisting us higher into history.

Mama’s gonna open bar doors, stretch the taps out
to the sidewalk, pour drafts for drinkin’.
Light the sacred glass in blooms of stonework
and paint the streets like a beer bottle mosaic.

Mama’s gonna build a boat bigger than Noah’s,
a wheel and tall stacks, to whistle your name.
Plow the lonely barge lanes in winter
and hop-skip the river boat to boat when fireworks fly.

Mama wants to make it happen.
Mama’s doin’ it for you.

 

*******

 

Corn-fed pig town.
You taught me three-ways, goetta fests
and pony kegs. Bengal shouts in winter winds.

You taught me to Ezzard Charles,
to jab, weave and strike like a cobra.
To throw myself out of the corner and into the fight.

To cheer into the river night
with the ghosts and golden spirits
of Crosley Field, a palace to the fans.
Throat sore, eyes too full of light.

You taught me to avoid the tag,
to sing the knotted history of the hit king
with a stubborn tongue.
To slide head-first into home.

 

*******

 

I came for the magic and stayed
for the music. Heard your trumpet calls,
symphonies and syncopations.

I let a stranger sing to me,
lines that told the truth like graffiti
over sanctioned street art.
She phrased a phrase too charged to hold key.

Music reaches down the one-ways from a public stage,
rebounds off homes from church festivals.
Brick, here, is a canvas for revolution,

a reawakening of sweat and spirit.
The site of the blacksmith off Ridge is now
a record store, hammer clang to cymbal crash.
Time goes by, places change, the rhythm pushes on.

 

*******

 

The fog rolls over the night hills—
not every hill, but here.
Rolls in and hides the limits of the night.

I drive Montgomery Road to our centennial house.
From the porch, I hear the baby cry,
a new squall storming old plaster.

Joining the wind, an anthem
to our alma mater. In my arms,
I shush with wordless whispers
and no magic, sounds to settle
an arrival home.

This street, where puddles splash. On this hill,
with no historic name, one among many,
the fog paddles on into memory.

 

*******

 

Home. The name of a surprising house,
its numbers bright as jewels.

There’s a title for every square foot
of this city. We call them all again.
Reclaim them. Choosing a name
is a declaration of intent.

But it’s uncertain magic.
Cincinnati, named for the leader who cast aside
his sword when the war was won.
Named for power surrendered, and power is surrendered
in time. Swords not laid down will one day drop.

We who had been torn, stirred, packed down,
formed and baked into the brick of change,
are now referred to as able—
spoken of when pointing to progress.
The mystery unwinds but doesn’t unravel.

 

*******

 

Cincinnati is a promise that we make
to our inner selves,
and I promise
there are still stories
to tell and to tell.
Streets to walk, and corners,
like the city , to come around.

Marry me in Eden Park,
Lay with me at Spring Grove.
It would be beautiful.

You’re the heart in my wrist,
the arrow on my chest.
I tried to draw you some mysterious name
but you turned my line
into a circle around us.

Sing the Queen City.
Say home.
Coast the long cut.
Cross that bridge.

 

 

--Chase Public

 

Commissioned and produced by ArtWorks, the Cincinnati Tattoo Project reached a new level entirely. 

CLICK HERE for a promotional video and CLICK HERE for a video with stories.

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CTP-Key Beck-web.jpg

Key Beck runs toward his "drama Queen City"

CTP-Carrie Schierberg-web.jpg

Carrie Schierberg makes a bold proclamation.

Tom Rivera _the cut in the hill_.jpg

Tom Rivera's "the cut in the hill"

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Quin Orr's choice of words--"eat barbecue and slaw"--reflects many of his favorite memories, which involve food

CTP2.jpg

Marie Pope with her friends Leah Sebastian and Samantha Dewald. All three of them wear words from the poem crafted by Chase Public.

CTP7.jpg

Because ArtWorks makes big ideas even bigger, the words of our poem spread from the skin of 263 participants to the buildings, bridges, and sidewalks of Cincinnati--with a total of 54 murals. Some grew the art of quilling to the scale of a window display.

CTP8.jpg

Some of the murals enlarged words from the poem to cover a three-story window on the Cincinnati Reds Hall of Fame, just in time for the Major League Baseball All-Star game. Photo by Tommy Sheehan who also designed this and many of the other activations.

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Two great videos about Cincinnati Tattoo Project were produced by ArtWorks--both are hyperlinked in the text box to the left