Saturday, April 6, 2013

The Tattooed Poets Project: Su Zi

Our next tattooed poet is Su Zi.

As you can see, she has a few tattoos.

Of her body art, she selected this piece to share:

Su Zi explains:
"I am sending ... a fuller portrait, and ... the tattoo on my knee ... holding a cup and saucer with the same motif. I chose this tattoo because it is the only china pattern I like. I was given this set of china by my grandmother, with whom I felt close. I liked the pattern for its mystical whimsy, and tried to keep my set intact through a tempestuous life. I also miss my Grandmother. In the winter of 2012, I had Liz Gruesome tattoo the pattern on my knee at the Marked For Life convention (generally, all women artists), to which I have been a faithful attendee since its inception. I chose my knee, because that's where I habitually set my cup when I am trying to be proper in company -- as I was taught, you know? I like the idea of the pattern on the cup being repeated on my knee--or vice versa. It was not the most painless choice I could make, but that's part of the totem--yes?"
Incidentally, Liz Gruesome works out of Smokin' Guns Tattoo in Fayetteville, North Carolina.

Su Zi sent us a poem to accompany the tattoo. Entitled "Three Days," she likes "the synchronicity of the Gramma tattoo and the poem ... a sort of matrilineal theme to it all, and death and loss and all that."

                                                  Three Days

1 Hallows

The Frankenstorm has put frost on the blades of Florida
     and there are angry dishes in the kitchen
     of this house that you touched briefly so long ago.
The tree you planted is full, vigorous and larger than expected.
Your tears in the water are a chemistry beyond your degree.
There’s a full moon that is livid in the northeast
     and a pink candle in the window to the north,
     because you have aged past
     Jack O Lanterns
     and my children have fur.
You would be eighty one today
     and my costume is your habit: jeans, flannel, thick boots,
      preoccupied scowl.
Of your many gifts, I have your eyebrows
     your soup recipe ---
Oh how I would invoke
     your lullaby or your laugh.

2 Saints

The flesh of the earth yields,
     turning between small, square palms.
It is the day for dice and the washing of graves,
So the last feathers of the late storm
     make a thousand thousand perfect circles at 3pm
     to the gratitude of the grass, which glows,
     to the glory of the names facing skyward.
Here is our oval, rising into shapes
     veils of evaporation
     urns of clay
The full moon later
       with Jupiter on her shoulder

3 Souls

In the blue of the morning,
      while the oldest oak still dreams of night’s mists,
The moon pales west past fallows and pastures
      dew spangled cobwebs,
      tiny skittering birds
My hands speak all day of grain and reins,
    keypads, of a bruise,
       of the definitive slant of light,
       of these moments without memory
Yet my attire is your lesson:
       big sweaters, careless hair,
       bare face, blue jeans
       my meal is dinner, because
       that’s what you taught,
       and there’s the purchased plate of fried shrimp.
In fact, the chocolate phosphate of your Depression Era soda-fountain childhood
       is now an unspoken institution at the dam diner: a legacy
       to those who never knew you.
There’s no one to see
       your echo in my face
       the jokes made only we would find funny.
We are women who look down when we walk,
       and now today walking
   There were all those we took
      so the conversation continues
       your word
       my honor
   all the internal, reflexive anachronisms.
It was on this very porch
    we decided
    how it would be
     when that phone call came
I said “can you make it so”
And you said “I can do that”
Thus, it was
    (and it was strength to hold fast when unknown voices
    counseled otherwise, but
    you were wise “ignore them”
     thus, it was)
Okay, maybe I am an odd girl
I am your girl
     ending three days homage birthday
     with this memento mori
     of that one morning
   I called you, your voice a single guttural wheeze
   As the Parkinson’s froze your throat
   and I said “I just called to listen to your life”
For a minute I heard your room through the telephone
      until your lost grasp.
A few mornings later, it was 10:35, the nurse answered,
     Unwilling to leave your couch and TV, gave breezy syllables
But it was then
           just then
           your final stillness
Yet I felt you for hours.
At 4pm there was a wind of relief
       full sails of joy
I felt you blossom
     into the physics without formula.

Now this gibbous moon rides forty degrees into her ascent
     and the crickets are the symphony of summer age seven
     nothing will be as crisp as those new cotton pajamas
     after a post-sunburn bath
And if our bodies remember
    all the ways
   then this is one of your many
Thus, it is
    square hands never resting,
    opening not to ashes, but
    to midnight,
     the creeping chill
 An awaited whisper that I
      know is yours

  ~ ~ ~

Su Zi has published poems in New American Writing, Exquisite Corpse ("when it was a print zine and somewhere after it went online"), New Laurel Review, the now-defunct Mesachabe, and in an anthology called Cadence of Hooves. She has published stories and articles (in print, a while back, in Natural Horse and, online, at Gypsy Art and Cosmoetica). SuZi is also an artist, and some of her work is visible in her etsy shop here ( She also publishes a chapbook series disguised as a magazine, that's really artist-made books--hand printed covers, hand sewn bindings-- that has its own Facebook page: Red Mare magazine. She invites readers to subscribe.

Thanks to Su Zi for her contribution to this year's Tattooed Poets Project on Tattoosday!

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

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