Thursday, April 2, 2020

Gabriela Garcia's Cuba Tattoo (The Tattooed Poets Project 2020)

Today's tattooed poet is Gabriela Garcia, who shared this little palm tree:

Gabriela tells us:
"This is a very rough tattoo but perhaps my favorite because of its connection to my favorite places and people. It’s a stick-and-poke I got in a living room in Cuba. Nowadays, there are lots of privately owned tattoo shops popping up all over the Havana, but in the early days, it was more of an underground affair. This was done by a neighbor of a family member as we drank beers and chilled on the couch and watched the world bustle by through the open door."
Gabriela also sent us the following poem, which originally appeared in The Cincinnati Review and the Best American Poetry 2019:


Nothing lingers on the lips like a death song,
my mother says, while shredding cassava

and invoking the spirits—
    Celia Cruz    José Martí—

or singing blood verse, a church lady
working the line, refugee intake.

Celia rolling pride through a gap
in her teeth, a cry that is palm tree split

middle-of-night lightning, 
and my mother, hands full of seashell witchcraft,

hands full of rooster feather prayer, 
says the ocean tastes different

once we’ve drunk it all, once we’ve bongo beat
to water bumping on a home-baked raft: we

pilgrims who sway and dip to the sky because
how close to almost-death is our trombone shriek

and even if we deny it—our blackness
our fufú plátano quimbombó-ness, 

we end up riding the rhythm
on the right pause, roaring lineage on our hips

and in our swings when
we are dancing across the oceans like gods. 

~ ~ ~

Gabriela Garcia is the author of the novel Of Women and Salt, forthcoming from Flatiron/Macmillan. Her fiction and poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Best American Poetry, Tin House, Zyzzyva, Iowa Review, Michigan Quarterly Review, The Cincinnati Review, Black Warrior Review, and elsewhere. She is the recipient of a Rona Jaffe Foundation Writer’s Award and a Steinbeck Fellowship from San Jose State University, and has an MFA in fiction from Purdue University, where she also taught creative writing.

Thanks to Gabriela for her contribution to the Tattooed Poets Project on Tattoosday!

This entry is ©2020 Tattoosday. The poem and tattoo are reprinted with the poet's permission.

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