Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Christopher Shipman, Portrait and Progression (The Tattooed Poets Project)

Our next tattooed poet is Christopher Shipman, who shared two tattoos for Tuesday. First, this one:

Christopher tells us:
"The smaller tattoo, which I refer to simply as Portrait, was my first. It was scarred
into my right forearm in Memphis, TN on January 5th, 2000, the day I turned 18. I
attribute to it the title Portrait because, when the artist asked what I wanted to get, I
said, 'Just look at me and draw something.' His immediate response was not
dissimilar to the look I get when I tell people how the tattoo came to be. It’s a look
equipped with squinty eyes. The squinty shape of eyes quickly dissipates, however,
when I add that the design was drawn on paper and okayed by me before the tattoo
gun ever began buzzing, a sound that I have come to find very satisfying over the
years. The artist was pleased that I didn’t expect him to freehand a design from
scratch directly into my flesh. Such an approach wouldn’t even be allowed at his
shop, I remember him mentioning. In short, I was pleased with the result of the first
draft and gave him the go ahead. Since then I have heard people ask all kinds of
questions about what the tattoo is, but my favorite is that is one of those radish-like
things that you use as weapons on Super Mario Bros. 2. Sometimes I say yes, it is."
Then, there is this tattoo:

Christopher explains: 
"The bigger tattoo I refer to simply as Progression. I got the tattoo, which took three
sittings, in Jonesboro, AR in the spring of 2002. I got the idea for the tattoo after
watching 2001: A Space Odyssey for the first time. The movie really resonated with
me at the time, and still does, but the idea for the tattoo grew from a brief scene near
the beginning in which a tribe of hominids uses a bone to fight off a rival tribe. It
seems fairly clear that Kubrick meant this use to represent the first tool. After the
bone is used as a weapon a hominid throws it into the air and it eventually, spiraling
up and up, becomes a spacecraft, indicating that the plot jumps ahead in time
thousands of years. I was dumbstruck by the simple (even primitive), yet profound
statement about progression—one that affirms that everything we see around us
had to begin with a single tool. I just thought it was a notion worth reminding
myself of every day."
Christopher sent us this poem, as well:

Said the Night

after I’ve had
    a certain kind of day

I hadn’t had before the move
from New Orleans to North Carolina

I pour a cheap beer in a fancy glass
wait at the antique table falling apart
     in the kitchen

while Sarah finishes
Finn’s bedtime routine

my ritual of reading having ended
as it does with a kiss
I sit and try to recall

the name of the tropical bird
painted in fiery streaks across
my fancy glass but never can

in the oppressive        electric light
of a nighttime kitchen
I often remember instead

as if tattooed on the hand
that holds the glass
in ink only visible to me  

                  this specific sashay
      of memory

not as if recollected
from a past life regression

more alive and well than that
more breathing now than that

like the day itself had managed to drill
into my skull to make room

for a gruesome operation
and this memory       sprung dancing

from the burr hole          just like this:

there is a strange woman
in the kitchen

she creeps like wild wallpaper
or a flicker of sun against     its flowers
when a window of trees
                                invites it in

floorboards creak beneath her boots
just as a stage for her
sort of performance should

in a moment               I will flick a flake
of crusted skin from her forehead

but for now she is happy to stop
changing clothes     every three minutes
to walk a goofy walk

and she won't stop                     she can't
until I believe in its beauty

it's easy to believe         to get distracted
from couch and book     if you are
an audience of one

I give her the typical    green-light-giggle

we both need
to hip-pivot past
our own      darkening eruptions
then she's off to find
the perfect sweater and skirt combo

in a moment               she'll be gone
to meet her friend
to booze through late afternoon
to sit in the window     maybe at Molly's
Irish Pub    
            and become something
the sun shimmies by

but for now she's happy to be
a strange woman
creeping across the kitchen's
creaky boards
as beautiful as wild         as strange
as light as flower         as paper
           as I am grateful

and look now  here she comes

~ ~ ~

Most recently, Christopher Shipman is author of Keats is Not the Problem, co-authored with Brett Evans, and The Movie My Murderer Makes Season II. Shipman’s work appears in journals such as Cimarron Review, PANK, Plume, Salt Hill, So and So, Spork Press, and TENDERLOIN, among many others. His poem, "The Three-Year Crossing," was a winner of the 2015 Motionpoems Big Bridges prize, judged by Alice Quinn. A Ship on the Line (2015), co-authored with Vincent Cellucci, was a finalist for the Eric Hoffer Award. Shipman lives in Greensboro where he teaches literature at New Garden Friends School and dances to the Boss with his four-year-old daughter on his shoulders.

Thanks to Christopher for sharing his tattoos and poem with us here on the Tattooed Poets Project on Tattoosday!

This entry is ©2019 Tattoosday. The poem and tattoos are reprinted with the poet's permission.

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