Thursday, October 6, 2011

Richard Schnap’s “Lifer” from Calliope

I was drawn to this poem because it is the only poem from this edition to be accompanied by a picture. The picture is of a man’s chest, which is covered in tattoos. Some are difficult to distinguish. There is a man in a hat holding a gun, a heart with something protruding from it, a C crossed with a backwards C, something that might be a fist, and a few different pieces of writing, which I can’t make out. Most prominent, though, is a cross on a necklace, which at first glance might not be taken as a tattoo at all. It is much darker than the other tattoos and ‘hangs’ by the man’s left nipple.

The poem describes “dragons and demons, skulls and swastikas” as well as different gang symbols (from multiple gangs) that this man has had tattooed. It says he also has names of lost lovers, friends, and a “daughter he’d never hold in his arms,” but that the most important of the "map of a world gone wrong" was the “tiny cross over his heart.”

This poem and picture made me so curious to know more about the man with the tattoos. Why did he swear allegiance to multiple gangs? Why will he never hold his daughter? Why swastikas? And why does the cross mean so much and need to explanation? I guess I’ll never know the answers to the story, but the image by itself is very potent.



Popped said...

I'm now really intrigued by the man and want to read the story! Does it say what order the tattoos were inked? If he lost his daughter before joining the gangs, perhaps he wanted to feel some form of family or community. Or, if the order isn't mentioned or important at all, perhaps he is trying to find some form of faith or just something to gain hope or self-importance from. The complete opposites of his daughter's name and the gang names/swastikas are an unusual but fascinating combination: memorializing the creation of life as well as the names of organizations that take it away. I'd love to read this story to find out more.
---Jen G.

Popped said...

Oh, boy. I am also incredibly intrigued by this story and also want to know more about the man! In general, I find tattoos to be incredibly telling, especially when an individual has many of them that somehow overlap and tell a story. I guess thats it: the notion of telling a story/keeping something important to you literally with you forever... One thing that you mentioned though of “dragons and demons, skulls and swastikas” really interested me. The notion of placing those words together as couples must be saying something about the relationship the man has with say, swastikas (which for me, personally, is something I will never be able to understand) and skulls. I can certainly come to my own conclusions, but I would love to know where he was coming from.

- Jennifer A.

amra said...

Sounds like it really made you think and imagine all the possibilities, sometimes that so much more potent than giving the reader or the viewer all the answers because it really starts to become part of you for a while.