Tuesday, June 1, 2010


Essay in Embryo #7

Every few months I start thinking about what I would want as a tattoo. I go through the same litany of pros and cons, be they cliche (what would you want on you forever?) or guilt-induced by my upbringing in a generally tat-unfriendly culture (don't you know that your body is a temple?).

In the beginning was the Word

A few months ago, I had a dream that I actually made the leap and went to a tattoo parlor. I didn't tell the artist what to draw, so, he/she drew a rose on my arm, and wrote "Rose" underneath it. Image and text, married, but not happy about the union. "No! That's so obvious!" I yelled, and had them remove it. I then had an epiphany: I wanted a tea plant drawn on my shoulder blade, with the scientific name underneath it (Camellia Sinensis). Why this was any different than the previous rose is a Rose, I don't know.

And the Word was with God

In high school, I learned about Nazarite vows, the most famous exemplar being Samson. He was bound to God by strict adherence to certain dos/do-nots, namely, not cutting his hair or drinking alcohol. Even though things don't go so well for him, I took the idea of binding yourself to God as something I should do, and came up with my own version: I wouldn't dye my hair, pierce my ears, or get a tattoo. It was a ridiculous thing that wasn't officially vowed before anyone, and I saw it mostly as a reaction to the trend of dying your hair with Kool-Aid that was popular in the 90s. As a junior in college though, I had my ear pierced. It never healed, and when I gave up and removed it, it left a nodule scar of cartilage on the top of my ear. "Be careful of vows, no matter how idiotic," my soon-to-be father-in-law said.

And the Word was God

I had the idea today of getting something that used the idea from the opening of the Gospel of John, where he describes the coming of the messiah as a word being turned into flesh. While I doubt I'd ever actual do it (though, maybe in Latin? viscus vox? Doesn't Latin=Cool?) it made me wonder. As a writer, I'm constantly trying to turn words into flesh, via the imagination of my perceived readers. So, in one sense, are writers in general doing the work of messiah-bringers? But, then, I pull my content from the past--from preexisting flesh. So, really, am I turning dead-flesh into word, hoping it will re-flesh itself? Resurrect it into something restorative, transcendent? If that's the case, then something that was truly word first would be nothing short of word-world-warping. It would also explain why prophets are perceived as crazy: they're acting as if their words have already grown legs.

I am a voice shouting in the wilderness

Just that: a voice in search of an image, a body, a future.

*Italicized portions pulled from John 1, New Living Translation

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