Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Tattoos and Time




Recently one of my patients came in for routine testing. Mr S has been coming in for these tests for over ten years. Each time he tells a joke and defers most questions to his wife of fiftysix years. In order to do the test he had to roll up his sleeve. I'd seen his arm for the ten previous years, but that day something just touched my heart. Maybe because it was Martin Luther King's birthday, maybe it's just that time in my life, but I had to write how I felt.




Remembering Mr S -- I Saw Your Tattoo and Wept

I saw your tattoo
as you reached for your grandson's hand
No tiger, nor chain, nor heart nor lover's name
one letter, four numbers, blue ink

As you reached for your grandson's hand
Your sleeve slid up to reveal
one letter, four numbers, blue ink
indelible reminder of atrocities survived

Your sleeve slid up to reveal
a message of hate during an act of love
indelible reminder of atrocities survived
eclipsed for a moment by a gentle gesture.

A message of hate during an act of love
No tiger, nor chain, nor heart nor lover's name
eclipsed for a moment by a gentle gesture
I saw your tattoo



Tattoos have been used for centuries to communicate messages.
Viggo Mortensen's Nikolai in Eastern Promises wore his criminal resume on his body.
(Excellent movie and message, great tattoos)
I found a tin nicho which reminds me of the churches on Viggo/Nikolai's back and thought,
hmmm, this would be great for a shrine based on the poem.
The tattoos on the Siberian Ice Maiden have also contributed to my obsession, hence the beginning of a book about Scythians and their superb horses and tattoos, oh yes, and gold.

By the way Mr and Mrs S, who also wears a similar tattoo, I will remember you and will continue to remind people that genocide is happening again and again today.

Art has a voice and artists have many ways of speaking for those whose voices are silent.


This poem is my submission to Artella's Poetry contest. Wish me luck!
The shrine is a work in progress.

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