Poetry is a Destructive Force

Literary Tattoos: Wallace Stevens Poetry is a Destructive Force

This tattoo belongs to Phi Le:

There is one minor detail about this. In the original poem, the first line of the final stanza is actually “The lion sleeps in the sun.” Faulty memory on my part rendered it “shade” instead. But it still works.

The lines and dark circles are the Little Dipper.  The star at the very tip of the “handle” of the Little Dipper is Polaris, or the North Star. This was to remind me to “keep my eye on the North” aka maintain perspective about what’s truly important in life.

The poem itself is supposed to be about poetry and what Stevens believed was his/the driving force that motivates writing poetry…namely desire. For me this served as a reminder that while my desire often drove me to reach for opportunities and to achieve many things, it could also be destructive to my mental wellbeing and blind me from what’s truly important.

That’s what misery is,
Nothing to have at heart.
It is to have or nothing.

It is a thing to have,
A lion, an ox in his breast,
To feel it breathing there.

Corazon, stout dog,
Young ox, bow-legged bear,
He tastes its blood, not spit.

He is like a man
In the body of a violent beast.
Its muscles are his own . . .

The lion sleeps in the sun.
Its nose is on its paws.
It can kill a man.

- “Poetry is a Destructive Force” by Wallace Stevens

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