Best Tattoo Songs: Plus, Poetry

There’s a certain kind of poetry to the tattoo. Some people even get inked with poetry.

To kick off this month’s new Tattoo poetry theme, we gathered a list of the best tattoo songs we could find. So, click “play,” and get the ink going from pen to paper.

Full Tattoo Songs List: Red Dragon Tattoo (Fountains of Wayne), Tattoos on this Town (Jason Aldean), Last Tattoo (Rehab), Das Tattoo-Akustik Version (Tieftoner & Franzi), Tattoo- Live at the Hull Version (The Who), The Rose Tattoo (David Byrne), Show Me Your Tattoo (Craig Morgan), Start Me Up (The Rolling Stones), Tattoo (Jordin Sparks), Tattoos & Scars (Montgomery Gentry), Tattoo (Van Halen), Tattoo (Gjan), Tattoo (Natasha Mosley & Tyga), Like a Tattoo (Sade), Immigrant Song-from Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (Heavy Flyers), Beat the Devil’s Tattoo (Black Rebel Motorcycle Club), Your New Tattoo (The Bent Lovehandles), Tattoo-Parody of Nothin’ On You (“Weird Al” Yankovic), Tattoos (Frank Turner), Theme from The Rose Tattoo (Karaoke Library), Signed on My Tattoo (Army of Lovers), New Tattoo (Saving Abel), Texas Tattoo (Gibson/Miller Band), Pae Kon Suay (Tattoo Colour), Coal Tattoo (Linda Villarreal), Epaule Tattoo-single remix (Etienne Daho), Das Tattoo-Video Version (Tieftoner & Franzi), Half a Heart Tattoo (Jennifer Hanson), Soul Tattoo-Soul Album version (Margaret Becker), Moon Tattoo (Alfie Zappacosta), This Tattoo (David Wilcox), Fools Tattoo (Bedouin Soundclash), Love Tattoo (Imelda May), Tattoo (Jei)

Poetry Prompt

Think back. Do you remember the first time you ever saw a tattoo? Whose body did it adorn? Were you fascinated, delighted, frightened, or inspired? Put the memory in a poem. Take us back to the very first time. (Can’t remember a “first”? This is poetry. Not a problem. You can make a memory you never had.)

Thanks to our participants in last week’s poetry prompt. Here’s a recent Bottled & Canned poem we enjoyed from Monica…

Code: write it in a cryptogram

with disappearing ink. Roll
the parchment in a tight, tight scroll
then tie it with string in a knot as good as
a Gordian.
Stuff it in a bottle’s narrow neck
(and it has to be the dark amber glass
you can’t see through)
then transport it by boat far, far out
to unknown coordinates where ocean depth
is greatest
and fling it out to the sea where
it will sink so deep
the pressure will surely
be too much for any diver.
Above all, make sure the cork is fitted

—Monica Sharman

Call for Tattoo Photos for September Poetry Prompts

Do you have a tattoo? Are you willing to photograph it and share the photo with us, for possible use for our September poetry prompts? (Our September theme is going to be… tattoos.) If so, please share via Twitter or Pinterest and give us an @tspoetry or @EDaypoems, so we can find the share.)

Photo by ivoryelephantphotography Creative Commons, via Flickr.


Sometimes we feature your poems in Every Day Poems, with your permission of course. Thanks for writing with us!

Browse poets and poems
Browse more writing prompts
Join our Tattoo Book Club


  1. says

    Butterflies are Free

    Grandpa had a tattoo,
    an anchor – he had been in the Navy
    most of the old men had them
    on their arms where sleeves
    could hide them.
    Daddy had one when he
    and Mom divorced,
    across the top of his arm – Helen.
    When they remarried
    he had to sand it off…or something.
    I didn’t think about tattoos
    when I was young. You were a soldier or
    jailbird and I didn’t aspire to either.
    Then along came Cher
    and her butterfly.
    It took my breath…
    a whole new image of being…
    Once my parameters were
    nurse, secretary, teacher, mother…
    I wish I could say
    I learned my lesson well
    but here I sit
    in mediocrity.

    • L. L. Barkat says

      Debi, I really like this. Especially the part about “Helen” and the way, as a child, you’d have no idea exactly how it got there or how it disappeared. Then, of course, the adult in you knows so much more, because… it’s a tattoo, after all… not easy to come by or erase.

  2. says

    Thanks. Yes, from a child’s perspective. My dad died when I was six but Mom said he did get it removed, I don’t know how : ), but knowing my Mom it was the tattoo or the arm : ).

  3. says

    Tattooed in the Tyrol

    Fifty-seven of his tats
    went to his grave

    with him, victim
    of a murderer, lying frozen

    but fully clothed,
    completely equipped

    for his next life, preserved
    for five thousand years

    on Austrian soil.
    A cross on the inside

    of the left knee, one
    more on the back

    of the right; six lines
    running parallel above

    the kidneys, two more
    striking through the left

    wrist, inner and outer
    ankles, up and down

    the spine, even that weak
    Achilles tendon bearing

    the sure signs of a healer
    at work below the surface

    of the skin, the hands-on
    art made forever indelible.

    This was acupuncture
    in the Bronze Age, and Otzi

    the Iceman got himself inked.


    The story of Otzi the Iceman is fascinating. ( Photos of his tattooes are available.

  4. says

    I could not resist reducing to poetry the story of Carol “Smokey” Nightingale, master tattooist. The “facts” are all over the Web.

    The Man With the Golden Needle

    Every great tattooist leaves a legacy.
    ~ Carol “Smokey” Nightingale

    It all started at the circus
    where his mother worked.

    She taught him the art
    of tattooing, giving her kid

    his first when he turned eleven.
    By 1957 Smokey Nightingale,

    said to have been born in a moose
    pasture in northern Ontario,

    was in the business he called
    dermagraphics, his specialty

    the female form. He’d mastered
    that, no doubt, after a dozen years

    in the Merchant Service. Smokey
    had a way of cleaning his tools

    and soon enough earned his name:
    The Man with the Golden Needle.

    He wielded his electric marker
    inside a cage inside a shop

    across from the Greyhound bus station
    in the nation’s capital. That would

    be Washington, D.C., Twelfth St.
    to be exact. He had a Japanese attack

    dog for security. He needed it,
    especially on his busiest days inking

    American presidents (on other people —
    yarn-spinning being a lucrative sideline).

    That electronic device, the one used for
    “tattooing animals, humans

    and for other applications” is better
    known nowadays as a tattoo gun.

    Not to get too technical but Smokey
    got the patent, the first, on it the day before

    Independence Day: July 3, 1979.
    For reasons the research doesn’t reveal,

    Nightingale took with him his only copies
    of Patent No. 4,159,659 upon fleeing

    these United States. Smokey’s relative,
    a great great nephew, disputes the details

    of the story in Tattoo Archive, citing
    as evidence that the family up in Canada

    was Catholic and two sisters were nuns.
    Even if Smokey’s mother was a needlepointer,

    the skin painter did exist. Check out his books
    on Amazon and his flash in the Tattoo Museum

    in Baltimore. Like another professional says:
    “Every tattoo has a story. Every cover up has two.”

  5. says

    Tattoos & Cigarettes

    I remember when you were all
    Tattoos & cigarettes
    For me-

    Cherries and swallows inked on your skin
    You knew how tattoos got me going
    Especially on you.

    How you used to light a Marlboro
    With a devilish grin
    And blow your smoke right at me

    Maybe a few smoky kisses,
    Sexy in your scally cap
    While you’d snap inhale

    Huge white balls of smoke
    Popping out of your mouth,
    Right back in,

    God how I loved that,
    And you knew how your smoking got me going-
    Your smoking was always the sexiest.

    In our little barn
    You’d show off your new tattoos
    Smiling like the sun.

    So what happened to
    The tattoos & cigarettes
    We used to share?

  6. says


    I carry the runes of you in my pocket
    Smoothed while recalling

    Your blank walks

    A wash of blackcurrant and
    Holly in your hair

    Wandering aimless by shorn clapboard
    and storm kestrels overhead.

    I think of your eyes
    While watching Venus blink,
    Tiny speck of green popping

    Out of the witching hour’s emptiness

    Distracted by a sweet orb only daring to show itself
    in blinking Morse code-

    City firefly’s shy hesitant glow
    of phosphorescent luciferase
    Impermanent tattoos in the humid air

    Asphyxiated by the hum
    of flowing electrons by wayward wings
    Vintage and neon.

    I sweep your edda into the hearth
    Ashen mingling of myrrh
    and incense sprinkles its cinnamon

    Onto bare exposed brick.

    The lightning-scarred tree
    with its bullseye of char
    Burned inside-out,
    Cindered base,
    Reminds me of our concatenated dreams.

    I touch the ghost of you
    Roaming the paths of King’s Chapel
    and Granary Burial Ground

    Farsick and windtalking to yourself.

    I still taste the ozone on your lips
    After you rained all night.

    I throw the bait of you into the water
    and the sunfish of Northwood Lake nibble the worms
    of your toes.

    And I watch the sawing motion of your thoughts
    on DVR over and over
    Hearing the fibers tear

    Knowing the damage of blades and friction

    How your heart will always bear
    All ninety stone
    of Hunters Lodge.

  7. says

    I have part of Hamlet as a tattoo. I wrote this a while back about another poet, with another tattoo.

    The Tattoo

    Tell me, my love, as the book on my skin
    splayed its pages in that endless breeze –
    the book I dreamt then paid to be cut in

    before I even knew you breathed,
    when I blamed my faint on the warm tincture
    of ink and antiseptic, not the unsheathed

    needle swapped behind me for a dripping blade –
    tell me, after the vaseline and scabs and the long
    return to suppleness, why it fought again to bleed

    when I saw you lift a sleeve to bare this
    black amulet of words? Did it want to fill
    empty vellum sliding in my epidermis,

    or feel your faithless quill scratch an oath
    from another time? Each will know its own.
    Did you think you could rewrite this truth?

    As the centuries spin, our halves lock and curse
    as they have ever done. By these fractured signs
    we stitch our pattern to a random universe.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *