there is religious tattooing

By Fred Moten Fred Moten
for a long time, the lotion stigma swirled
on the man who clothes me with a broken

world. I came when they called me. that
cotton rubbed me the wrong way all the

way inside over the course of time. way before
cotton sewn into the coat of the one
who clothes me. before I started clothing

them with paper. before cotton sewn into

their coats they curled up on flat boats
all the way back up the country. the beaded
strips of leather and cotton made me come
to myself when he called me and wrote me

on the one who clothes me. pour some water
on me. make coming matter cut and twirl

on me. the law of emulsion is always broke
on me. somebody pour some beautiful jute

on me. let her blow some horn on me. the man
who clothes me in my skin is gonna write

on me. your writing moves to stop on me.

someday they’re gonna curve this on a pearl

on me but now it’s time to go and I can’t wait
to get up out from here. it’s simple to stay furled

where you can’t live. for a long, long time I’ve

been wearing this other planet like a scar on me.

Fred Moten, “there is religious tattooing” from hughsons tavern. Copyright © 2008 by Fred Moten. Reprinted by permission of Leon Works.

Source: hughson’s tavern (Leon Works, 2008)

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Poet Fred Moten


Subjects Nature, The Body, Religion, Arts & Sciences


Fred Moten lives in Los Angeles, where he teaches at the University of California, Riverside. He is author of Arkansas (Pressed Wafer); In the Break: The Aesthetics of the Black Radical Tradition (University of Minnesota Press); I ran from it but was still in it. (Cusp Books); Hughson’s Tavern (Leon Works); B Jenkins (Duke University Press); and The Feel Trio (Letter Machine Editions), which is a finalist for the National Book . . .

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SUBJECT Nature, The Body, Religion, Arts & Sciences


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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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