my fate

This belongs to Jaclyn.

Throughout my entire life, I’ve always felt like I was running away from the norms of society. I felt hunted by fashion magazines, beauty trends, and corporate America. “Just be normal,” they would say, while trying to change me. But I don’t like being normal. I like being me.

Literary Tattoos: my fate my doom smiles at me Charles Bukowski

my fate

like the fox
I run with the hunted and
if I’m not the happiest
man on earth I’m surely the
luckiest man

- by Charles Bukowski

Question for my readers: I have seen this line as its own poem, “my fate“, and as part of a larger poem, “my doom smiles at me“. Does anyone know the story here?

Be on the watch

Literary Tattoos: The Laughing Heart Charles Bukowski

This belongs to Elizabeth.

My tattoo is inspired my Charles Bukowski’s poem “The Laughing Heart” I took the specific line “Be on the Watch” as a reminder that as Bukowski says in his poem “the gods will offer you chances” and not to let my life “be clubbed into dank submission.” The last lines are “you are marvelous/ the gods wait to delight in you.” Every time I look at the tattoo I can remember that I AM marvelous, and life, more often than not is marvelous.

My tattoo was done by John Wilson at Scapegoat Tattoo in Portland, OR.

it has been a beautiful fight

This belongs to Miriam Lee (amournocturne).

I got this as a reminder to never lose myself. the world and everything in it will try to change who you are, what you believe in. everyday is a fight to save yourself.

Literary Tattoos: You Get So Alone at Times That It Just Makes Sense Charles Bukowski

“Lighting new cigarettes,
pouring more

It has been a beautiful


- Charles Bukowski, You Get So Alone at Times That It Just Makes Sense

Love is a dog from hell

Literary Tattoos: Love is a Dog From Hell Charles Bukowski

This tattoo belongs to Ana Lee, from the book Love is a Dog From Hell by Charles Bukowski.

I got this tattoo on my inner left thigh. i am a huge fan of Bukowski! I believe love is a really powerful emotion, and it really IS a “dog from hell”… At its very best, you will always be worried that something bad might ruin it. And when it DOES end badly, it can rip you apart. That’s why, at its very best and at its very worst, “love is a dog from hell”.

13 hour clock

Literary Tattoos: The Flash of Lightning Behind the Mountain my doom smiles at me George Orwell Charles Bukowski 1984

This belongs to Anthony Tracy.

1984 is one of my favorite novels. The opening line is incredibly significant for me. It was the inspiration for my recent tattoo, a timepiece with the hands striking 13.

I chose the clock because it is the most recognizable symbol from the book and of its theme; that truth is subjective and a product of power. I don’t find the 12 hour day to be a particularly significant expression of power, but for me it is an adequate example of the theme. I understand that I could have gone with a 24 hour analog (which some people say is actually what is happening in the novel) but I opted for the 13 hour for its simplicity and its capacity for emphasizing the idea I wanted to express.

I wanted to express the concept of Newspeak, the thirteen hour clock would be category C vocabulary, or scientific and technical language (per the categories administered by the Ministry of Truth). This category is less significant for meeting the ideological needs of the party but is nonetheless an expression of the ability of the party to determine truth. My opinion of most things accepted to be truth is that it is more a constructed product of tradition and reiteration than it is of an objective, pre-existing truth. I know this isn’t the case for every thing taken to be true; I am not so naïve to believe that gravity is a social construct, my view on this obviously has its nuances. However, I find myself agreing with the idea in almost all of my studies; from international relations to religious studies. I think Nietzsche said it best:

“All things are subject to interpretation. Whichever interpretation prevails at a given time is a function of power and not truth.”

Following that statement, I think it’s fair to say that we have 12 hour clocks for the same reason we use the imperial measurement system instead of metric, the same reason we have the Christian Gregorian Calendar instead of the Mayan, or the same reason that I attended Catholic church growing up; because of tradition and because the people embracing that tradition prevailed over other people embracing alternative interpretations, not because it is the naturally true or correct way. A day can be divided up any way you like, but for historically significant reasons we have settled on this particular interpretation. Aside from the Orwell reference, I would be perfectly fine with just this as my justification.

Basically, this is one of my favorite concepts. It summarizes my personal philosophy on everything from politics to religion. Plus, Katie Kroeck of Nectar Tattoo in Excelsior did a brilliant job. I gave her a concept and she turned it into a beautiful piece of art.

The poem underneath is from “my doom smiles at me” by Charles Bukowski.

roaring, roaring, roaring

Literary Tattoos: splash Charles Bukowski

This tattoo belongs to Alina.

My tattoo is the last three lines of Bukowski’s ‘Splash‘. I had had a serious reckoning with myself, identity questions etc. when I got this tattoo and this poem sums up how I feel about writing, about myself, how I should be about life and how we should all be; always doing and working with conviction, always fighting, never giving up. Living gloriously, being truly ourselves without shame or hiding, fulfilling our destinies.


Literary Tattoos: Charles Bukowski

This is Dan’s tattoo.

My tattoo is from an interview with Charles Bukowski in Life Magazine.

“For those who believe in God, most of the big questions are answered. But for those of us who can’t readily accept the God formula, the big answers don’t remain stone-written. We adjust to new conditions and discoveries. We are pliable. Love need not be a command nor faith a dictum. I am my own god. We are here to unlearn the teachings of the church, state, and our educational system. We are here to drink beer. We are here to kill war. We are here to laugh at the odds and live our lives so well that Death will tremble to take us.”

The font is Papyrus. This tattoo was done by Ray Jimenez at Bad Apple Tattoo in Las Vegas, every time I’ve gone to that shop the work has been phenomenal.

Note:  The source of this quotation is Life Magazine December 1988. You can read the article text here.