Kelley White – Five poems

kwhiteKelley White has worked in inner city Philadelphia and rural New Hampshire. Her poems have appeared in Exquisite Corpse, Rattle and JAMA. Her most recent books are TOXIC ENVIRONMENT (Boston Poet Press) and TWO BIRDS IN FLAME (Beech River Books.) She received a 2008 Pennsylvania Council on the Arts grant.


The Black Cloud

–with apologies to Eileen D’Angelo

Description: 1 ½” wide by 3-4”long. A common, thick, black tattoo often accompanied by entwined hearts or a single pieced heart. Appears most often on the right shoulder of a male between the ages of 25 and 65 who is accompanied by a significantly younger mate. Often covered by t-shirt sleeve but can be readily identified when male is engaged in certain outdoor activities such as barbequing, lawn mowing, horseshoe pitching, or boating. Is best ignored but is sometimes questioned by a child or distant relative as in: “why does uncle Bernie have a black cloud on his shoulder” and the whispered answer, “that used to say Florence for Auntie Flo but he got it blacked out when he left her for Auntie Lulu.” “Oh.”

Voice: Hoarse, guttural squawk.

Habitat: Driveways, garages, basements, hardware stores.

Nesting: Does not share nest with young though young occasionally spend weekends or holidays on fold out couch with children of new mate. May congregate near mealtimes at fast food restaurants from maternal sedan to paternal Camaro or pick-up truck. Prefers vanity plates

Range: Alaska, Quebec, and Nova Scotia south to New Mexico and Florida. May breed at Disney World and Club Med.

This large tattoo is often the cause of headshaking and whispers. It signals a willingness of the male to make commitments and an inability to keep them. It can be the cause of laughter or conceal loss. It is wise to be especially wary of the occasionally seen double black cloud or the crossed out name below two cherubs armed with bows. Most black clouds fade with age and are even occasionally forgotten on the arm of a beloved grandpa or dad, especially when accompanied by the endangered ‘M-O-M’ on the left shoulder. Although increasingly rare during the 70’s-90’s there are suggestions that the Black Cloud is making a comeback in certain rural and even urban territories since 2000.


The Lucky Charm

Shamrock on the nape of her neck,
red hair in braids: she might as well tie
a green tutu around her swollen
belly, dancing to tooraloora at the
St. Patrick’s Day parade. We’re embarrassed
to be Irish as she tugs up her shirt:
there’s a rainbow over her cleavage
and twin overflowing pots of gold.


The Misspelled

No regerts. I’m awsome. Too cool for scool.
Nolege is power. Regret nohing. Beleeve.
This to shell pass. Only God can Fudge me.
Live you’re Life. Honeslie. To strong to loose.

Never don’t give up. Death before dishounor.
Thunder only happens when its raisin.
Don’t let the pass make your dicisions.
Crazy Beatifull. The Ledgends live on .

Keep Smileing. Hart breaker. Somke Weed. Prome Queen.
I was mayd for you. Gonna be alrigth.
My Trajedy. Only the strong servive.
A love thicker then love. Believe, Achive.

It’s Streangth. Resplect. Live without regets.
Never loose hope. Tamorrow never knows.
Move forword. You’re the pettle on my Rose
I will rember before I forget.

What don’t kill ya/makes ya more stong. Gaurdian.
It’s get better. Success is a process.
My Mom is an Angle. Babby. Your Next.
Plan Ahea (on the knuckles of each hand.)


The Portrait

Description: A large tattoo, usually done with sufficient detail to allow for significant criticism of the artist. Not to be confused with criticism of the wearer.

Voice: Practically shouts adoration or obsession or makes a contrary statement implying a desire to proclaim love while failing to display responsibility.

Habitat: Typical resides on shoulders, chest, or back of male subjects, though females may occasionally bear similar marking.

Nesting: May desire to nest with subject of portrait or may express inability to achieve a desired closeness or shared home.

Range: Site where single men congregate or married men appear for occasional recreation.

The portrait tattoo requires extensive preparation including choice of appropriate photograph, selection and preparation of site, determination of size, and color choices. Although typically only gray on black technique is likely to be affordable, due to the making of intricate stencils and the choice of intricate needle groupings. At best the artist can be expected to bring his own ‘artistic style’ to the portrait which may lead to unfortunate or even comic results. It may be best to choose a portrait of someone who is likely to retain the love of the person being tattooed such as an admired celebrity or child rather than a potential or actual mate. Removing even a moderately sized portrait tattoo takes anywhere from five to 15 laser sessions, with eight weeks of healing time in between. The cost of such removal can be expected to be high.


The Tao

Description: Sizes may vary though typically between 5 and 7 inches in diameter; larger versions require excessive amounts of ink on the dark side. White markings occur to left of darker markings, white never appears above dark, and dark above white would represent a major error in plumage.

Voice: A monotonous low vowel chant following by humming: oohm, oooohhmm, oooooohhhmmmm.

Habitat: Urban hipsters, aging flower children, typically on central back or lateral shoulder, occasionally on lower back or near umbilicus. Sometimes nests with other arcane symbols such as the Egyptian Ankh, Tibetan Ohm, Unknown Chinese Character, All-seeing Eye of Rah or Horus, or vague celestial images such as moon or sun, in which case matings may occur, with, usually infertile offspring, such as the ‘Yin-yang Sun,’ or ‘Fiery Yang-yin.’

Range: Northern North American continent, specifically coastal U.S. Almost never seen in Asia except on visiting species.

Sightings originally occurred among Americans who thought they understood Buddhism but apparently considered the Tao Te Ching a Buddhist text and Lao-tzu an Arhat. Such individuals embraced Yoga with confused enthusiasm and purported to understand the concept of Zen. Such individuals have largely become extinct or metamorphosed into collectors of Social Security and Medicare, however many utterly confused young carry the mishmash of mismatched cultural symbols forward into an increasing jaded New Age.

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