My beautiful, creative and talented friend, Patch (do check out her artwork here), recently shared a photograph of her mermaid tattoo on her thigh (pictured above) with me. What I found particularly striking about this image, was the uncanny resemblance it bore to Youki Desnos’ mermaid tattoo (pictured below), which is similarly positioned on her thigh.
This chance encounter between the two mermaid tattoos really resonated with Patch, prompting her response to the image: ‘I love that shot, [Youki’s] confidence and the fact [the men] look impressed rather than letchy’. Indeed, both women can be seen controlling the gaze in their respective photographs and embracing their femininity through the siren figure.
I recently acquired the tattoo shown above right. It wasn’t until I showed it to the group that it was pointed out that it qualified as an image of La Sirena, both as a hybrid being capable of traversing earth and air, and because the sirens of the Homer’s Odyssey were female figures with wings.
The tattoo, by John at Bizarre Ink of Edinburgh, is based on the ‘Queen of the Night’ also known as the ‘Burney Relief’, shown at the top left. I had been fascinated by this figure for years, and finally got to experience her presence at the ‘Feminine Power’ exhibition at the British museum a few weeks ago. I was coming to a significant hinge-point in my life, a tattoo seemed an appropriate ritual marker, and I suddenly realised what it had to be.
The story of the Burney Relief is a mystery worthy of the pulps. Acquired from a dealer in the late nineteenth century, its exact origin is unknown and it was long thought to be a forgery. It has since been widely associated with Lilith, though current scholarship suggests it is a representation of the Ishtar, the Babylonian goddess of love OR Ishtar’s elder sister and arch-rival Ereshkigal, queen of the underworld. (The sisters were much later syncretised by the Greeks as Aphrodite and Hekate respectively.) This duality pleases me, and I suppose the tattoo represents whichever queen of the night I find myself in most need of at any given time.
Taya and I recently met up with several of the surrealists of Wales, including Steve Handsaker, John Richardson, Tracy Thursfield and John Welson, in the beautiful mountainous setting of Clyro, on my birthday. John Richardson kindly hosted the meeting at his house.
We created a collective collage and some collective poems featuring in the sixth issue of Surrealerpool’s magazine, ’Patastrophe! (7 November 2022). Although, Jean Bonnin was not able to attend, he was certainly there in spirit and provided materials and ideas, which we incorporated into the collective work.
I Am Still Here
Fridge Eyes and bakerlite eyebrows Underwater music filters through the night There where we murdered the mirrors Vulnerable lips choking on mirrors Invoking the mystery of days to come Announcing the moon balloon of memory The lost child embraced chance encounters Coins tossed, dice shaken, and light bulbs smashed Light filtered in the shrine of a stolen memory singing I am a man, I am a woman, I am a fighter – I am still here
Over A Number
Over a number Blue stolen shadows creep Light refracts on the breaking of dawn The asparagus train pulls into the station We play games with their faces nightly The dragon dresses in the latest fashion And ice falls from the eyes of the woman in black As the dice swallow the odd numbers only The egg is buried in the graveyard, never to be seen again As golden tears fall on the luminous ground
Jean Bonnin Taya King John Richardson Darren Thomas
26 July 2022
I also received a number of birthday gifts. Here are two that Tracy Thursfield and John Welson created: