Friday, April 21, 2017

BJ Love and Prince on the Tattooed Poets Project

On the first anniversary of Prince's death, we chose to share the following tattoo from our next tattooed poet, BJ Love:

BJ tells us:
"This is the first tattoo I got. It was just a few months after I started college. From the very first moment I considered getting a tattoo, I knew what I wanted. A few years prior to this, Prince had changed his name to an unpronounceable symbol. From what I understand, he felt that Warner Bros. owned Prince; his songs, his name, his likeness, and his creative process. He wanted to be free from all that, so he adopted what had been calling the love symbol as his moniker. I loved the mystery of it, his odd enforcement in only referring to him as that symbol, and most of all, I was really into the music he was making in the early-to-mid 90's. So, in the fall of 1997 I walked into Eternal Ink in Waterloo, Iowa, with my copy of Prince's Emancipation record and just handed it to the artist when he asked what I wanted. I don't recall his name, but he had been a teacher and left his job after a few years of apprenticing to start tattooing full time. I really admired the fact that he found a passion, and the sacrifices he made to pursue it. 
Though I now have many tattoos, I've spent the last 20 years answering questions about this Prince tattoo. In most cases, I try to give it just a hint of the same mystery Prince had at that time, but if pressed, I'll tell you that I loved Prince, and that he preferred, for a time anyway, to be known as a symbol that meant 'love.' Having grown up with the last name Love, I thought that was pretty fucking rad, so, tattoo.
In the year leading up to his death, Prince was the soundtrack to a book of poems I was writing about faith and belief. Here is a poem from that collection that borrows the ending from 'My Computer,' on Emancipation."
The God our Yahweh has Left us (Homily)

The story still rings like an echo, still rings.
I want to lay down before this sunset, to slice open
each of my fingertips and drag them through
the sand just to see if I can make this last. To see
if I can capture the strange math that combines
these two into gold. The alchemy necessary
to make this light something I can hold.
Something I can keep. Yahweh, my Yahweh
I want this. I want what I’m sure is a part of you.

This, none of it, is law-abiding, is my abiding
your law. But it is beautiful and now I can have jars
of it, jars made of it. Sand plus a binding agent
(my blood) and voila! We created a pottery
that is something to behold, something to be held
something to do the bulk of our own holding.

Yahweh may have made me, but I made the pottery
and in this valley, and during this time, and on a day
when the sky bled on me first, what is more useful?

Are these not your laws? No. No. No, this is
but commentary. But commentary makes it
nonetheless important. Yahweh, I don’t know what
it is to be surrounded by the world, to be in it
so deeply you feel for nothing else, but I do know
what it is to look on it, to look on it and love the world
so much you hope to keep it all, you hope you can
keep it all, you hope it’s possible to bottle the world
as it is right now so you can take it home and show
everyone that there is a better life. A better life.
A better life. A better life. A better life. A better life.
A better life. A better life. A better life. Now, goodbye.

~ ~ ~

BJ Love is a 6th grade English teacher. Poems of his can be found in The North American Review, Hobart, Pinwheel Magazine, Sink Review, and Bodega Magazine, among others. A graduate of the Iowa Writers' Workshop, he lives in Houston, TX, with his wife, the poet Erika Jo Brown, and their dog, Franklin.

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

This entry is ©2017 Tattoosday. The poem and tattoo are reprinted with the poet's permission.

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