Saturday, April 8, 2017

Curtis Harrell and His Sleeves (The Tattooed Poets Project)

Today's first (yes, we have two!) Tattooed Poet is Curtis Harrell:

Curtis tells us about his work:
"Strange as it may seem, none of my tattoos, except, of course, the names of my wife and daughters, have particular significance to me. From the beginning I wanted sleeves, and the majority of the tattoos were chosen to fill particular spaces. Most of the tattoos you see in the photo were collected within a couple of years in a few different shops in southern California and Greg’s Tattoos in Little Rock, AR. I guess the significance for me, really, is that I have been sleeved for decades. I wore a lot of ink before it was as popular as it is now. So now, when I see other people with sleeves, I am proud of the patina mine have gathered. I hope my poem explains it better than this."

The Last Tattoo Poem

Forty years ago
I began
To fill my arms with beasts.

I saved my pay
For Charlie, the Hell’s Angel,
On the corner of Victory

And Van Nuys, his needle
Driving my dreams
Underneath my skin,

The eagle, tiger,
Peacock and rose, the dragon
Breathing fire,

The reaper staring down
All of my days.
Charlie scribed the armor

I wore in the rumbling saddle
Of my Harley iron
In the valley of L.A.


But time gnaws
Everything, flesh and steel.
The days have dulled

The eagle’s sharpened eye,
The peacock’s talon,
The tiger’s fang and claw,

The rose’s thorn.
The dragon’s flame has withered.
I have burned

Through a thousand skins.
Millions of minutes
Have worn me thin; I’ve been

Weathered by love
And death and countless afternoons
When nothing happened.


What persists is the core
Of the self-inflicted scar.
The reason why

I volunteered for pain.
Every stare
Confirms these marks

Are more than skin
Deep. Take, for instance,
The scripture scripted

Over my heart,
Chapter and verse,
The gospel faded

Back into tongues.

~ ~ ~

Curtis Harrell writes and teaches in northwest Arkansas where he also busks with the banjo and leads tours through a cave in the summer. He received an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Arkansas in 1985 and has recently had poetry and plays published in The Cave Region Review, The Healing Muse, and riprap journal, where one of his poems was nominated for inclusion in the Pushcart Anthology. His work and writing are informed by the scent of maple being hand-sanded with 200 grit paper, the way last light dapples the sassafras leaves as they crimson in the October dusk, and the loping note of straight pipes on an ironhead Sportster motor. He believes “Foggy Mountain Breakdown,” the crack of a junebug off his Ray-Bans at 70 mph, and the final couplet of a sonnet are all the same thing.

Thanks to Curtis Harrell for sharing his tattoo and poem with us here on Tattoosday's Tattooed Poets Project!

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

If you are reading this on another website other than Tattoosday, without attribution, please note that it has been copied without the author's permission and is in violation of copyright laws. Please feel free to visit and read our original content. Please let me know if you saw this elsewhere so I contact the webmaster of the offending site and advise them of this violation in their Terms of Use Agreement.

No comments: