Johanna Walker’s “of topological wrench”

“I’m 50 years old. Once, when I was about 25, a friend was going to get a tattoo. I kinda sorta thought about getting one too, but didn’t get very far past kinda sorta. I couldn’t figure out what tattoo I would get. What could I possibly want tattooed on my body for the rest of my life? So I didn’t get anything. Other than that very small moment when I kinda sorta considered it, I have never had any interest in getting a tattoo. I could never understand why anyone would want to mark up their precious, sacred, holy body with a permanent tattoo. I mean tattoos are permanent. Getting a tattoo is a bigger commitment than marriage. You can get a divorce, but a tattoo you’re stuck with for life. So getting a tattoo was never configured into the design of my life.

Then, a month before my 50th birthday, I saw the invitation to participate in the Boulder Tattoo Project and, suddenly, with no warning, completely out of the blue, as if I was possessed by some alien being that wasn’t me, I responded without hesitation with an immediate and resounding YES. SIGN ME UP! I was about to turn 50 and I figured: It’s just a body. It’s on its way out. It’s a downhill slide from here. I’ve likely lived longer than I have yet to live. Why not get something tattooed on my body for the rest of my life? It’ll be dust in not too many years, so I might as well make the dust slightly more interesting. I was making a list of 50 things I wanted to do in my 50th year and, at the risk of living a mid-life cliche, getting a tattoo seemed like a perfect thing to add to the list.

And besides, I’m an artist. And I often find myself in the camp of ‘Anything for art!’ And community! And collaboration! So many good reasons to get a tattoo!

I was late to get on board, so I had limited options to choose from. After sitting with a few possibilities, I went with ‘of topological wrench.’ I like those words. I had to look up topological. A mobius strip is topological. On my 40th birthday ten years ago, I got a mobius strip in the mail from an anonymous giver. It reads ‘If these visions of Johanna are now all that remains to be seen if these visions…’ I still to this day have no idea who sent it to me. So topological seemed like a fitting word for my 50th birthday.

‘of topological wrench’ is in the line of the poem where Anne Waldman writes about the flatirons, so I put it on my hip, just below my iliac crest, which kind of reminds me of one of the flatirons. After getting the tattoo, I realized I had to tug the corner of my pants down for anyone who wanted to see the tattoo and show them my hip. I confess my skinny quirky hips have never been the part of my body that I love the most. In fact, my hips have, at times, been a little bit hard to love. So, quite by accident, I get to show people my beloved and imperfectly perfect hip over and over again.

Wrench is a good word, too. He wrenched my heart out. I was in wrenching pain. We broke into gut-wrenching laughter. Wrench. Wrench. Wrench. I like the way that word feels in my mouth. Wrench. Of topological wrench. Before this tattoo, I had never once in my life said that combination of words together. Ever. Of topological wrench. Now I say them together a lot. Of topological wrench.

And I’ve got ‘of topological wrench’ permanently tattooed on my sacred, holy hip for the entire rest of my one wild and precious life.”

Joanna Walker

Johanna Walker’s “of topological wrench”


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