Tuesday, April 23, 2013

The Tattooed Poets Project: Kevin Patrick Lee

Our next tattooed poet is Kevin Patrick Lee, who had initially expressed an interest last year in our project, but we had to wait for 2013 to run his submission.

We're running this post on a Tat-Tuesday, because, as Kevin explains, he sent us "two poems ... regarding the subject matter of each [tattoo]." And because, "each poem gives insight into the respective tattoo," he adds, "...further explanation isn't needed."

First, the tattoos, side by side on Kevin's inner forearms:

We'll start with the tattoo on  the left (Kevin's right), which is a portrait of his father. Followers of the television series L.A. Ink might remember this piece, which was featured on the show and created by Corey Miller at High Voltage Tattoo in West Hollywood.

This is the accompanying poem:

The Reality

My father died in my arms
early on a Thursday morning.

I wasn’t scared, I wasn’t even sad.
there was no time or room for that;
that was my mother’s job.

At the time, my brother and I
worked in the same warehouse,
the same dirt, the same grime,
the same bullshit from corporate pricks.

The day after my dad died,
my brother was back at work,
and I made it in the day after that.
We probably worked harder those few days,
than we ever had before.

And we got a lot of awkward looks,
uncertain stares that said,
“Hey, what are you doing here?
You should be at home, wilting and weeping.”

But like our hard-working Irish father,
we are blue-collared through and through,
until one day we too kick the bucket
butt naked on the cold linoleum
of the bathroom floor
some unsuspecting morning.

And though we have a lifetime to mourn,
the truth is,
bills don’t stop for death
and rent is always due on the 1st.


The tattoo on the right (Kevin's left) is based on Frida Kahlo's painting "The Broken Column" and was tattooed by Brittan "London" Reese at Vatican Studios in Lake Forest, California. The poem accompanying this tattoo is "Hooked":


When I walked out of our apartment for the last time,
I grabbed every roll of toilet paper.
I took the clips that tacked down the cable wire.
I picked up all the damn bobby pins that miraculously
flew out of my wife’s hair and onto the carpet.

I stripped everything, except 2 hooks on the wall.
The two hooks that held up a painting that brought my wife and I together;
It was Frida Kahlo’s Broken Column.
There is nothing romantic or sexy about the painting,
except perhaps Frida’s bare breasts,
which I’m sure weren’t as perfect as
Salma Hayek’s breasts which played the part of Frida’s breasts
in Julie Taymor’s 2002 amazingly colorful film.

I don’t know what my wife’s attraction to the painting was,
and I still don’t,
but I identified with the nails scattered all over her body
and the literal broken column of her spine.

There were times in my mid-twenties where I couldn’t
roll over in bed to turn off my alarm clock because the discs
in my back were angry over their current living situation.
My doctor asking me, “So when do you want to schedule surgery.”
I never took her up on her offer,
instead popping pain pills and muscle relaxants when needed.
Luckily I have never been the addict.

And I have nothing to complain about,
as so many people have it worse.
I know a woman who had something
implanted in her that would permanently
block the pain receptors going to her back,
because without it, she would have hung herself.

This was our favorite painting separately before we met,
and perhaps it just goes to show that sometimes
pain and suffering leads to extraordinary things.

I left the apartment and those two hooks,
and wanted to beg the landlord to keep them there,
so that perhaps it would bring inspiration to two more people
to hang something on the wall together,
the walls that hold them together,
the walls that keep them safe together,
so that they could fall in love here,
make a family here,
so that they could one day move on
and beg the landlord to leave the hooks in the wall.


Kevin Patrick Lee is the husband of a beautiful blue-eyed woman, and the father of a cool blue-eyed boy. He hosts a monthly poetry series called The Hump Readings, was a founder of Beside the City of Angels: a Long Beach Poetry Festival, and runs Aortic Books. His work has appeared in book collections and many great small press mags. A book is forthcoming in 2013 by World Parade Books.

Thanks to Kevin for sharing his poetry and tattoos with us here on the Tattooed Poets Project on Tattoosday!

This entry is ©2013 Tattoosday. The poems and tattoos are reprinted with the poet's permission.

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Anonymous said...

Who did your Frida tattoo? It is absolutely gorgeous.

Tattoosday said...

Brittan "London" Reese at Vatican Studios in Lake Forest, California.