Neil Gaiman inscribes poem on man’s back

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Burton Olivier's Neil Gaiman-composed tattoo. (Photo posted on

Novelist and The Sandman creator Neil Gaiman, whose commencement speech last week at the University of the Arts went viral over the weekend, has made headlines again for composing a poem especially for a fan who had it tattooed on his back.

The fan, Los Angeles' Burton Olivier, asked Gaiman if he’d compose a comic book panel to be inscribed on Olivier’s back as a large tattoo. Gaiman was game and wrote a poem which was then illustrated by famed comic book artist David Mack.

As Gaiman write on his website, he accepted the request as long as the design could be used to support the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund (CBLDF).

It can be bought as a screen print poster for a $100 donation to the org.

Gaiman’s poem is intricately interlaced with the figure drawn by Mack, sliding and winding and undulating its way down the page.

Here is the poem.
(The line breaks correspond roughly to how the poem is organized on the image.)

I will write in words of fire.
I will write them on your skin.
I will write about desire.
Write beginnings, write of sin.

You're the book I love the best,
your skin only holds my truth,
you will be a palimpsest lines of age rewriting youth.

You will not burn upon the pyre.
Or be buried on the shelf.

You're my letter to desire:
And you'll never read yourself.

I will trace each word and comma
As the final dusk descends,
You're my tale of dreams and drama,
Let us find out how it ends.

Want to know more about Gaiman’s recent work, including his dark children’s novels? We had a chat with the British-born Minneapolis transplant while he was in Philly for his U. of Arts speech. Read it here.

(PHOTO: The print version of Olivier's Gaiman and Mack-designed tattoo which is on sale on the CBLDF website.)