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COMMONS MAGAZINE

Posted
November 17, 2015

Body Lines

A poem-and-tattoo collaboration across race and age

"Choose a line to send this poem into the community on your body." You can see more photos from the show here

Lisa Marie Brimmer and I are creative collaborators hailing from Minneapolis, MN. We are poets… writers… artists… actors… producers… creative placemakers…yogis. One of us has a cat named Hendrix. The other listened to Jimi’s music endlessly, obsessively, all throughout high school.  

On the face of it, some might see as an unlikely partnership, separated as we are by age and race. But even if we’d never met in person, if we’d only communicated through words and sound, we’d sing only connection. We’re simpatico. It’s a beautiful truth that within the world of creative practice false boundaries are often transgressed. 

Lisa and I had known of each other, and each other’s work, for a while before we were both a part of the exhibition A Place at the Table. (Intermedia Arts, MN 2015). I had a piece in the gallery exhibition; Lisa was performing at Walking Towards Change, a cabaret evening linked to the exhibition. A Place at the Table was a “celebration of the power of women” and, fueled by the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement and Idle No More, an inquiry into the “erasure of women, especially of Women of Color and Indigenous Women, as both the survivors of oppression and the artists, thinkers, writers, activists, leaders that transform societies.”  

I attended the Walking Towards Change cabaret. Throughout the evening the performances, most by women of color, had become more and more intense, roaring with righteous anger and howling with honesty and pain. The theater became quieter and quieter. Do you applaud raw pain? Call for an encore for palpable rage? Lisa was the last performer to take the stage and by the time she stepped up to the microphone you could have heard a pin drop; the white audience members especially were silent, not wanting to offend, do the wrong thing, clap at the wrong time. 

Lisa stood at the mic with a quizzical smile. She looked up, looked down, then up again. Suddenly she was standing on the edge of that silent divide, shattering it, telling a seemingly rambling and completely hysterical story about the wandering mind of procrastination, of finding herself watching I Love Lucy re-runs instead of writing, offering up a poignant slice of shared humanity and in so doing, welcoming everyone in the theater to EXHALE. In breath - out breath - everyone laughing hard. Without missing a beat she launched into three incredible poems---the ground soft again, her seeds gently, stealthily, planted. I walked up to her afterwards and invited her to work on a joint project sometime very soon. 

Body Lines is our first collaboration. 

Lisa and I are bridge builders who see the connects and the divides, the sorrow and hope. Body Lines was created to amplify the truth that what we have experienced –- and are experiencing now as both individuals and as a nation –- is written on our bodies. Like the earth we call both mother and home, our bodies live the full truth of our joy and pain.

The Body Lines poem was written by Lisa and inspired by Amiri Baraka’s clipped low coups style. The poem was intentionally crafted to be deconstructed on the bodies of strangers, which I did one evening in August at the Minneapolis Convention Center Plaza. Lisa’s poem was printed on temporary tattoo paper and cut into lines and short sections which were pinned up on a large piece of foam core. Passersby could read the entire poem, chat with me, and select which line – if any – they wanted ‘tattooed’ on their body. I then placed the tattoo, and took their photograph. 

Moments of whimsy, wonder and pain filled the evening. I placed the words, “love you” on the chubby arm of a six month old baby while his parents beamed and laughed. I tattooed a line on the arm of a man who couldn’t stop flexing his biceps while I took his photograph (for vanity – not irony!); I placed the words, “we go so quick” beneath the real tattoo of a young man’s face on a women’s arm. When I gently inquired further I was told the man was her son, who’d been murdered. This mother’s eyes, and those of her husband beside her, were moist with the tears that refused to fall. 

Body Lines
Poem by Lisa Marie Brimmer; temporary tattoo deconstruction by Camille J. Gage

“You will, lost soul, say ‘beauty’ ” 
Amiri Baraka

extra, extra, have I 
got a line for you?

heart & soul
heart & soul
line | between

 

I fell in love with
the line between

daily
——————
divine

I fell in love with
the line between

fight
——————
flight

stop and go.
we go so quick,
I warn my heart

but then there
are some lines
meant to be crossed

cross that line
that off the list
that t | your eyes

only the strong 
survive. so, reachstretchflex 
forgiveloud gethigh sleepin 
loveyou

Iinger a little 
too long and 
lose it.

keep your body 
in my sight 
lines, arms reach

police line 
—————— 
do not cross

police line 
—————— 
do not cross

police line 
—————— 
do not cross

how many times 
will I stand lie 
in that line

how long will you leave me 
with my hands up
those aren't teardrops

arms reach is all 
I ever wanted
to begin with