Sunday, May 02, 2010

The Tattooed Poets Project: Eboni Hogan

Here on the last day of the 2010 Tattooed Poets Project, we are featuring two tattooed poets (in two separate posts).

Eboni Hogan's poem below is dedicated to her friend and fellow poet Jeanann Verlee, whose own contribution, not coincidentally dedicated to Eboni, is above here.

Tabasco for Jeanann Verlee

We eat everything so smothered in Tabasco, it leaves our fingers ringing. When we share a plate, we do not have to accommodate the daintier palate by quartering off a sauce-free section with first-rate ventilation systems and plexi-glass. We brandish the little bottle furiously, haphazard and without warning. The poor falafel treads the screaming red lagoon on a makeshift raft of lettuce. I imagine that the red-head learned how to pronounce the items on the menu from her Greek ex-husband, who would be horror-struck by this sacrilege of tzatziki. From her tales, I’ve concluded that a man like him deserves nothing less than a good goring with a hummus smeared fork. Tonight we count the names of those like him. Display each one on the table top as evidence that our greatest mistakes were charmers with crooked teeth and bad handwriting.

It is Valentine’s Day. In the forty minutes it took me to ride the train to the West Village, I witnessed three separate occasions of women sobbing, yelling, or a frightening combination of both. I watched a girl, no more than 16, curdling on the uptown platform. She juggled an overstuffed teddy bear, a bouquet of plastic roses flickering like Christmas lights. Unexpectedly, she turned to the sheepish boy standing beside her, still obediently clutching her knock-off Vuitton in his thick fist,
and struck him once in the gut with the blinking bouquet with so much force, the lights in half of them ceased to twinkle.

The European family dining at the table beside ours finds our conversation far more compelling than their own. They must wonder at the strange notion of two women wearing black dresses and clunky silver rings dining together on a holiday meant for meant for lovers. Because we know that they are listening in, we don’t spare them the gore, layering in words like “detached,” and “hemorrhage,” and “depressive”. If they must know, we will give them full coverage, unabridged. They will learn how to stage a coup d’├ętat in a cab that refuses the ride to Queens or Brooklyn or just up the block, study the way a sidewalk rampage can never be figured into travel time, commit to memory the occasions when tears came unexpected while grocery shopping or watching a particularly sappy commercial about rescue shelters or tsunamis or fabric softener. Catalog the moments when we’d wished we weren’t so good with words.

As I tell the story about the time I cried so hard on a flight from London to New York City, that the flight attendant secretly handed me a napkin cradling a sleeping pill, the European mother turns to look into my face as though she may have remembered being on that very plane with some weepy American girl fraying her eyes into black sores— but, no.

She is met with the narrowed glare of the red-head who speaks louder now, peppering their meal with terms like “fume” and “razor.”

It was in this very restaurant that I was dumped,
not once…
but twice…

by the same man.

One might think that after the second rupture I might reconsider meeting the man for “dinner” and “conversation,” at least not without considerable re-enforcements.
A sock full of quarters,
A getaway car.

Our mouths are churchyards. There are no bells adorning the graves of the sleeping. Every coffin lid is raked in anguish, pink polish embedded in the grooves. The ghosts have been known to fly from between our teeth and take to the streets, only wishing to be held into flesh again. Tonight they stay put, ignoring the Navy boys roaming 6th Avenue, the lesbian couple monopolizing the only working stall, the employee bussing the plates before the last olive pit had been cleared of its meat. Tonight they will cause no spills, lose no friends. They will patiently wait an hour for the train watching the night’s lovers quarrel and kiss across the Manhattan bridge.

Thanks to Eboni for her contribution and for sending us four tattoos to be seen on Tattoosday here.

24 year-old poet, actress and Bronx native, Eboni Hogan, has performed in over 30 U.S. cities and facilitated workshops from refugee camps to prestigious universities. She studied theater at New York University's Tisch School of the Arts. She is the winner of the 2010 Women of the World Slam Poetry Slam, the 2008 Urbana Grand Slam Champion and a two time representative of the Nuyorican Slam Team. She is published in the anthologies His Rib and Double Lives and recently released her first collection of poetry entitled Grits through Penmanship Books.

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