I will have to confess that my tattoo was premeditated and there's no story of drunken mayhem to go along with it. Just another winter afternoon in 1991, Elyria, Ohio. The ice the snow the bare branches the deserted streets a loose piece of siding on a storefront downtown banging in a freezing wind. I'd had to leave Brazil unexpectedly because of new visa regulations, and the culture shock I felt was mayhem in itself. This might be why I don't have the impression that the tattoo process was painful - but it was definitely felt. The tattoo parlor (somewhat to my disappointment) made for a rather tame domestic scene, as homey and tranquil as the laundromat next door, business was slow...
My dear friend Margot who has made the drawings of Big Bed Land Animals on P-in-B, designed the tattoo for me-- it's her impression of my companion of 26 years now, Pablo, an Amazon parrot. She faxed her design - I had never seen a fax before and it was really somewhat disturbing. As were many things about that winter - if it hadn't been for Audrey who took me in to her house and heart out of the psychic and cultural storm I was feeling, it's hard to say how I would have gotten through it. I stayed with her, and she gave me a room to write in - need I say more?
Well, Bink, as he often does, came up to me with some questions about the tattoo as soon as I started thinking about it for Theme Thursday. Always questioning, is our Bink, kangaroo Animal and Pocket Philologist. The Animal Dictionary he's compiling reveals the profound differences between Animal and Monster language. In the process he often struggles with the Oxford English Dictionary - this is one reason his dictionary is pocket-sized for the convenience of Kangaroos and other Animals.
He's got all the Animals wondering about the taxonomy of the Pablo tattoo. Pablo is a Monster, but is the tattoo part Animal?
Yes, I respond, insofar as the Past is a kind of Animal. The same way that Time is a kind of Animal (which Monsters are always unsuccessfully trying to harness to their will, whereas in Big Bed Land it is allowed to wander in its purely wild state.) So it's a different kind of Animal from Rosie the Chinchilla who is part Animal and part furry Monster. And not like the fish on the coral reef dvd either, who are Animals but not three-dimensional, and not like the Animals in the Targ Forest which are insubstantial self-created spirits of Animals.
"It says here you can beat a tattoo?" he asks, and I can tell that he is worried.
Sometimes the best way to answer Bink is to give him more to think about. "Well, I said, tattoos are made on skin and drums have skin heads. But neither tattooes nor drums shave their heads." Bink scratches his own head rather sadly. "You know," he says, "some day you Monsters are going to get so tangled up in your own language that no one will be able to get you out."
"Except for the Great Big Bed Land Bard, Polar Knight," I say and he brightens up considerably.
"Of course!" Bink says. "Polar Knight could cut his way through the Gridiron Knot, if anyone can."
"Do you mean the Gordion Knot?" I ask Bink.
"Maybe," he hedges.
And Polar Knight- our hero!- comes to the rescue once again with a pome:
The Gridiron Knot
Is plumb full of tangles
And language it mangles and mars.
But left to itself
The universe spangles
and burns its words into stars.