My Guitar

Literary Tattoos: Shel Silverstein Illustrations A Light in the Attic

This belongs to Christian, who also has a popular Dylan Thomas tattoo.

My freshman year in high-school, I found my dad’s Alvarez guitar buried beneath boxes of keepsakes and old jackets. The old guitar had been given to him by his father’s best friend who was killed, only weeks later, in an oil-field accident. Over the next few years, I slowly taught myself basic chords and spent many nights playing songs underneath the stars of West Texas.

When I left home for the Texas Hill Country to attend college, I discovered a passion for songwriting. As a Creative Writing major, I found the marriage of music with the written word to be a perfect fit. I knew for a long time that I wanted a tattoo that somehow embodied this ardor for music and language. Almost seven years after discovering that dust-covered case in the closet, I realized the perfect image to express this had been waiting for me since childhood.

I spent hours as a kid in the local library poring over the books of Shel Silverstein. Like many others of my generation, I rediscovered Shel as an adult. In fact, one of the first songs I learned to strum on a six-string was “A Boy Named Sue.” Earlier this year, while flipping through a yellowing copy of A Light in the Attic, I turned to the page with the poem, “My Guitar.”

There it was: music, poetry, and a tribute to a man I consider a hero.

Literary Tattoos: Shel Silverstein Illustrations A Light in the Attic

Oh, wouldn’t it be a most wondrous thing
To have a guitar that could play and could sing
By itself – what an absolute joy it would be
To have a guitar… that didn’t need me

- My Guitar by Shel Silverstein, published in A Light in the AtticLiterary Tattoos: Shel Silverstein Illustrations A Light in the Attic

The Missing Piece

Literary Tattoos: The Missing Piece Meets the Big O Shel Silverstein Illustrations

This is Katie’s tattoo.

Literary Tattoos: The Missing Piece Meets the Big O Shel Silverstein Illustrations

This is Jillian’s tattoo.

If you are unfamiliar with the story, it is about the transformation of the Missing Piece. In the beginning, the Missing Piece looks for others to complete him, looking for other Missing Pieces. The Big O lends him some advice, suggesting he first try to roll by himself. So, little by little, the wedge transforms to a circle, and begins rolling my himself– “And it didn’t know where and it didn’t care.” Without looking, the Missing Piece meets up with the Big O once again; it is then they begin to roll together.

To me, this tattoo is about self-discovery, independence, and peace. It is about loving oneself before loving another.

So, when people ask if my tattoo is the Big O, I answer “no.”
It is an evolved Missing Piece.

Literary Tattoos: The Missing Piece Meets the Big O Shel Silverstein Illustrations

This belongs to Elana.

For my 29th birthday, I got this tattoo of Shel Silverstein’s The Missing Piece. The book has long been a favorite of mine since my dad read it to me as a kid, and stayed sentimental as I ended up working in children’s publishing. I chose this specific piece of art from the end of the book as my “I might not be perfect, but I can still be happy” mantra to myself.

Literary Tattoos: The Missing Piece Meets the Big O Shel Silverstein Illustrations

This belongs to Beth.

The font was pulled from Shel’s signature on the cover, we had to crest an O because obviously his name doesn’t include the letter. Elliott is my son, and I love this scene as the missing piece has just begun to outgrow his place.

From Shel Silverstein’s The Missing Piece Meets the Big O.

Hugs

Literary Tattoos: Where the Sidewalk Ends Shel Silverstein Illustrations Hug O War

This is Molly’s.

Literary Tattoos: Where the Sidewalk Ends Shel Silverstein Illustrations Hug O War

This is Bing‘s.

My best friend and I have these matching tattoos on our feet.  It’s our BFF tattoo & we love them to pieces.

Literary Tattoos: Where the Sidewalk Ends Shel Silverstein Illustrations Hug O War

This is Caitlyn’s.

 I thought it was on a place that could be covered easily by my clothing, but I get stopped all the time by people poking my shoulder to say they remember the poem it comes from. I got it because I read the book a million times growing up, and also because my dad sketched a version of Hug of War for his wedding invitation to my mom

Literary Tattoos: Where the Sidewalk Ends Shel Silverstein Illustrations Hug O War

This is Sabrina’s.

My daughter and I just got “Hug o War” tattoos. Mine is on the outside of my right leg. Hers is on her ribs on her left side.

Literary Tattoos: Where the Sidewalk Ends Shel Silverstein Illustrations Hug O War

Finally, this is Sarah’s.

I will not play at tug o’war.
I’d rather play at hug o’war,
Where everyone hugs
Instead of tugs,
Where everyone giggles
And rolls on the rug,
Where everyone kisses,
And everyone grins,
And everyone cuddles,
And everyone wins.

- Hug O’ War by Shel Silverstein in Where the Sidewalk Ends

flax-golden tales

This is Hank’s tattoo.

it has a lot of meaning to me, the entire poem. it reminds me of my grandfather. he never met a stranger and he could converse with anyone. he always had a story to tell.

Literary Tattoos: Where the Sidewalk Ends Shel Silverstein Invitation

If you are a dreamer, come in.
If you are a dreamer, a wisher, a liar,
A hope-er, a pray-er, a magic bean buyer . . .
If you’re a pretender, come sit by my fire,
For we have some flax golden tales to spin.
Come in!
Come in!

- Shel Silverstein, “Invitation”, from Where the Sidewalk Ends

Hug O’ War

This tattoo belongs to Catherine V.

This was one of my favorite childhood poems and it’s the way I’ve chosen to live my life.

Literary Tattoos: Shel Silverstein Illustrations Hug O War

I will not play at tug o’war.
I’d rather play at hug o’war,
Where everyone hugs
Instead of tugs,
Where everyone giggles
And rolls on the rug,
Where everyone kisses,
And everyone grins,
And everyone cuddles,
And everyone wins.

- “Hug O’ War” by Shel Silverstein

Invitation

Literary Tattoos: Where the Sidewalk Ends Shel Silverstein Illustrations

“If you are a dreamer, come in,
If you are a dreamer, a wisher, a liar,
A hope-er, a pray-er, a magic bean buyer…
If you’re a pretender, come sit by my fire
For we have some flax-golden tales to spin.
Come in!
Come in!”

- Invitation by Shel Silverstein, in Where the Sidewalk Ends

This is Kaitlynn’s tattoo:

I got it in memory of all of my grandparents who have passed away, mainly for my mom’s mom, who loved Shel Silverstein’s work and collected his books – “Invitation” was one of her favorite poems.