Wednesday, April 10, 2013

The Tattooed Poets Project: Shann Ray

Today's tattooed poet is Shann Ray, who sent us this photo of his tattoo:

He explains:
I got this tattoo the year I married my wife Jennifer, a bright fire of a girl who has only increased in incandescence. We've been together 27 years now and have 3 daughters. The lion symbolizes the mysterious sacred text notion that the lion is the inverse of the lamb. In the Christian tradition, Christ who was called the Lion of Judah appeared as a lamb that was slain. This is a reminder to me to sacrifice the self-embedded ways that sometimes arise in me and live with a generous and kind heart toward Jennifer for the rest of my life. The lion and the thorns remind me to help create the milieu of our marriage to be one in which Jennifer is deeply loved, respected, and given hope for each new day. What a life it has been with her! I still love this tattoo. It is like a secret kindness between us that reminds us all we share. 
When I asked if he recalled the artist who did this, he explained,
"The guy did become famous for tattooing the stars. It was in Garden Grove down in the greater Los Angeles area. Can’t recall his name or the name of the shop. All tribal oriented tattooing." 
By way of a poem, Shann sent us this:


Tomorrow you lead
the people in worship
but tonight let me hear you
in the quiet strength of our bedroom
where I watch silver birds fly
from your mouth and remember
how you break me all the way down.

How good it is to be
a vessel for the song
of this everyday world.

Cup my hand to your hipbone
and give me darkness through the window.

 ~ ~ ~

Shann Ray is a poet and prose writer whose work has appeared in some of the nation’s leading literary venues including Poetry, McSweeney’s, StoryQuarterly, the Northwest Review, Best New Poets, Montana Quarterly and Poetry International. A National Endowment for the Arts Fellow, he is the winner of the Breadloaf Writers’ Conference Bakeless Prize, the High Plains Book Award, the American Book Award, the Subterrain Poetry Prize, and the Crab Creek Review Fiction Award. He is the author of American Masculine (Graywolf), and Forgiveness and Power in the Age of Atrocity (Rowman & Littlefield/Lexington). His book of poems called Balefire will appear with Lost Horse Press in the near future. He lives with his wife and three daughters in Spokane, Washington where he teaches leadership and forgiveness studies at Gonzaga University. His website is

Thanks to Shann Ray for sharing his tattoo and poem with us here on The Tattooed Poets Project!

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