Tuesday, August 27, 2013

The Tattooed Poets Project: Jonathan Moody

Generally, we celebrate tattooed poets during National Poetry Month, but is there ever a bad time to embrace poetry and the inked wordsmiths who ply the trade?

Earlier this month, we received this photo from Jonathan Moody:

Photo by Ricardo Alanis
Jonathan wanted to share the tattoo you can see on his right forearm. He explains:
"In anticipation of my first-born seed, Avery Langston Moody, who will be due on October 29th, 2013, I wanted to get my first tattoo. After searching on-line, I found a salient piece of artwork that contained two tattoos in one: an ankh superimposed over the Eye of Horus. The latter symbolizes my philosophy on fatherhood and writing, and the former underscores my wife’s personal struggle to conceive a child. In Egyptian mythology, The Eye of Horus represents protection and sacrifice. In other cultures, it symbolizes a human’s capacity to 'see beyond.'  As a husband and a soon-to-be father, I am a protector and am willing to offer myself as a sacrifice if my wife or son were ever in harm’s way. As an artist, I perceive the world via an alternative (i.e. creative) lens. At times, what appears in front of the artist can prevent him or her from focusing on the big picture; however, those who can access a higher plane of consciousness can look into the world as opposed to at it.

Possessing the ability to interpret and/or create metaphor is one byproduct of accessing a high level of consciousness. Technology, comet, dinosaur. To the person looking at the world, those three words are unrelated. A person looking into the world could create a metaphor that shows how all three words are linked: Technology is a comet obliterating any dinosaur roaming in the field of education. Metaphor is a bridge between seemingly bizarre connections. The Eye of Horus tattoo on my right forearm reminds me that my poetry should 'see beyond' what is possible to the eyes of the average reader.
The ankh is symbolic for life and fertility. Over the course of five years, my wife has struggled to achieve the latter. She’s battled endometriosis and ovarian cysts. Injected numerous fertility drugs. Endured a failed IUI. Fortunately, in January of 2013, her first IVF attempt was successful. Now, seven months into her pregnancy, she has a three-pound hyperactive boy kicking her right side nonstop.

Anyone who looks at my forearm tattoo will merely see an ankh superimposed over the Eye of Horus, not my wife’s fertility struggle intertwined with my struggle to become a paternal figure. As Larry, the tattoo artist at Dago’s (off of 45 South), pressed the stencil against my forearm and started doing the outline, I had considered telling him the background story. Instead, I focused. Focused less on the pain and more on keeping my right arm still for thirty minutes. Did not want the ankh to be mistaken for a lollipop."
We're honored that Jonathan chose to share this very personal story behind this tattoo. Congratulations to him and his wife on the upcoming birth of their son!

Jonathan also sent us this powerful poem, which references his ink:


I came to Half Price Books
hoping to find hidden Todd McFarlane
gems in graphic novel bins,
but there were as many cop cars
behind my ride as there are traffic
lights in Fresno, Texas.

My fam told me that’s how Pearland
police rolls: pulling
people over for driving three miles
above the speed limit; for not
signaling when switching lanes.

Green paint dripped
off my Chevy Caprice as if it melted
in the triple digit heat, but I was chill
chill even though the white furry dice
dangling from the mirror served as a reminder
that Driving While Black was a gamble;

I’m a veteran actor. Spent
my whole career playing the role
of an innocent man who’s convinced
himself he’s done something wrong.
This scene, no different.
Only one take to look terrified
cops would discover Colombian
raw hidden beneath
the passenger seat.

My motivation: stay alive
& return home to my pregnant wife,
so I turned down the bass
& stopped rhyming
along with Chuck D.
Exercised the right to remain
quiet on the set.

Thought I was chill chill,
not the irredeemable
monster spawn who made
a deal in Hell so he could

come back to Earth & avenge
the deaths of defenseless people
whose lives were snuffed
by the police bullets
their taxes bought.

But I felt the six hour copacetic
cosmetics job it took for me
to look human became ruined
from the sweat trickling
down my forehead:
probable cause that deep
inside I resembled
the irredeemable monster spawn
Society made me out to be.

Regrouped. Visualized
my Freedom scraping
against the coral reef of hard time.

Stuffed the license,
registration, & proof of insurance
into my smart mouth,
& feared my acting chops
would peel away like the dead
skin around my freshly
inked ankh.

~ ~ ~

Jonathan Moody received his MFA in Poetry from the University of Pittsburgh and his BS in Psychology from Xavier University of Louisiana. He’s also a Cave Canem alum whose poetry has appeared in African American Review, Crab Orchard Review, Gathering Ground: A Reader Celebrating Cave Canem’s First Decade, The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Xavier Review, and numerous other journals. In 2012, he was selected by a committee to be a featured reader in Houston’s Public Poetry Reading Series. Moody also appeared in Houston’s 2013 Word Around Town Poetry Tour lineup. He is the author of The Doomy Poems (Six Gallery Press, 2012) and lives in Fresno, Texas, with his wife.

Thanks to Jonathan for contributing to the Tattooed Poets Project on Tattoosday here in August!

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

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