Friday, October 16, 2015


A lady killer, heart-throb, lover, dream-boat, eye candy, and more, Demon could charm the birds out of the trees. His nick name had more to do with his frenetic energy than it did with any menacing behavior. He could just as easily been labeled "Angel."

But Demon it was, as in "he wrote like a demon," when he wrote, which wasn't as often as I would have liked. He was too busy doing tattoos on the side in a prison that forbade tattooing. He wanted to do one on me.

"I'll bring my needle, " he said one time in workshop. "We could do it right here." He looked around the Programs Room, with its blackboard that had no chalk, the bare walls, the ceiling tiles stained by roof leakage.

"You mean you have a tattoo gun?" I asked incredulously.

Don't ask me how or where or any other logistic details about such a thing. All I know is that contraband makes it into prison. One week, a brick of black tar heroin had been found in the false bottom cavity of an inmate's drawer. I swear that there are times when I see stoned inmates on the yard. It's a testimony to desires finding a way, and I would not be shocked to hear that inmates have ways to get cell phones or more exotic goods.But a tattoo gun?

"You never heard nothing from me," he said, smiling, meaning, yes.

I couldn't believe it, but it was just another in the series of surprises that Demon brought to the workshops.

He was an artist. A real artist. In another life he might have been a famous painter, or film director, or, maybe, poet. In terms of "human capital," his stock could have demanded a premium. That it did not is nothing less than tragic. His physique suggested Adonis, and his tattoos, which were numerous, were the quality that comes only at the highest price. There was a portrait of Marilyn Monroe on his shoulder blade; vines with roses grew down his calf; some kind of reptile snaked up his forearm and rested on his shoulder, looking viewers in the eye. Some of them he had done himself; others were executed under his close oversight and standards.

I considered the offer, for the briefest of delusional seconds. The vision of a corrections officer opening the door with the volunteer being tattooed would signal the end of the writing workshops.

"You know I can't do that," I said.

"Just wanted you to know I'm willing. I'd do it for free," Demon said, big grin filling his face.

His tatts, as they were, did not confrom to the gang-banger, macho type, and I could tell from the workshop dynamics that his work, or his unwillingness to work, was something of an "issue" out on the yard. He didn't conform to blunt authority all that well. His writing was a testimony to that.

He was a free spirit in a world where that can land you in prison, and it had. To hear it from him, all he was interested in was doing his art (top priority) and chasing romance (very close second), always the gentleman. I read many episodes of beach lovemaking in Mexico, dangerous romances with the consorts of drug lords, tourists looking for a lark with an exotic tattoo artist.

There were also the drug arrests, the automatic weapons to the back, the rough treatment, beatings, and cross-border extradition. He told me he was working on a book-length work and asked me to type up several chapters. They were good, but needed work to become publishable.

He told his story the way he did everything: with ebullience and passion. While his techniques were primitive, his learning curve with language was steep, and he climbed it with like a man starving for what lay above.

Here is a poem he wrote.

I am the Mess You Chose

Banking constant dollars

In Big Big Business

As I’ve strung a lasso

Round about neck high

To your high-heeled legs.

Penguin suits can solemnly dare.

Stare stone split stares

A shore of foam…

Unrecorded violence

In sympathy my last, Black

Séance is a note

To your condemnation.

Tear a curtain shredded

As Samson is shaved

Bald, signs for weakness brightened

A cold industry abandoned

Damaging single mothers

My son is now your target.

Stop me now?

I’ll just stumble atrociously

Never to be broken

Simply manic.

The understanding swells.

May I have a horse

At the end of my rope?

It’s me tatted down you chose

A rifle I have eaten. Afterlife

A haven for parasites

Just a movie forgotten

Pathetic pansies!!!

I was chosen.

The intensity here was no less than every piece he brought to the workshops. In some ways, I didn't know what to say to him. He had gone into a language that was so rich and playful that it was beyond me to make constructive critique.

Then, as often happens, he was "rolled up," moved off the yard after his tattoo needle was confiscated. I heard that things had gone badly when they found his gun.

I never got that tattoo and have been spoiled for considering one from a lesser artist. I hope Demon doesn't relent, that he keeps his high pitched passion, that his art thrives in the soil of his many liaisons, his humming, exigent genius.

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