Photo Credit: Ankhe Tomer
By Jed-Rene Tuliao
I have a tendency to think and write in a stream of consciousness when it comes to poetry and short stories. I have wanted to write something like Mind Graffiti (below) for a couple of years now. It was like a huge itch in the back of my mind and it took me a very long time to get the right words together.
Growing up, some friends and I got into a little bit of parkour. I loved it so much; I remember having this one friend who could get to anywhere she wanted with such ease and flow it astounded me. It was a physical art form which couldn’t be captured but felt. I also had friends who were really into Graffiti art. It was during the Marc Ecko clothing wear explosion era. We would look up local artists and their works all over New York City. Sometimes you would have to sneak around to even find them.
What inspired this poem was the build up to it and the memories I had growing up seeing graffiti in all sorts of places. Every day after work, I would take the 4 train home from 86th St. And as soon as you hit 161st, you were greeted by Yankee stadium and the bright lights of the park next to it. I would constantly look out the window at the buildings I passed by. There would be Graffiti art on the roof tops and sides of buildings. So for a while I always wondered, “How the hell did they do that?” and, moreover, “How the hell did they get there?!” That was the buildup. It was like going from a running start up to questioning how, to a full sprint to getting to understand.
I wanted to capture the rush of parkour with the eloquence of urban street art. I always wondered how they were able to reach such heights and get to so many places without fear of what could happen. To be able to create something so quick and in the most dangerous conditions is truly a gift. The pacing of the piece is fast; it is meant to feel like you are jumping across roof tops, running past railway lights, sliding down ladders and climbing up poles. Each jump, spring, roll, hop is supposed to feel explosive like you’re rushing and extremely focused at the same time. And when you finally reach your destination, you just stop and admire the work. Slow down for a moment and take in what the art is telling you. Graffiti art is not just spray can art and vandalism. It is a culture. It speaks on spiritual and political levels. Throughout writing this poem, I had to stay in character from passive to active, so when sitting down to write this piece, I would mentally think about riding the train, capturing moments staring at roof top graffiti and tunnel graffiti from time to time as I quickly passed it by.
Candles and murals on the sides of bodegas remind us that anything can happen at any moment. When you see artist tags on the roof top sides lets us know that there is no limit, if there is a wall, there is a canvas. As the railway light illuminates the tunnels of the metro system, for a moment in a flash you can catch a mini museum of someone saying, “I tagged this, this is my trophy, my achievement.”
Imprints and memories,
Tattooed moments in time,
Vibrant colors of black and white,
Shine through a prism in a spray can fashion,
Multicolored murals and testimonies,
Of loved ones lost, free spirited expression,
Of the streets and the struggle,
Thoughts from the past make you think,
“How’d that get there?”
Train of thoughts passing by,
Sitting there for a moment,
As Memories whizz past you in a blink of a railway light,
From the impossible rooftops to the burning trashcans under bridges,
Limitless art flowing in a jagged edge formation,
Fighting the laws of mental restraint,
Let it sink in,
Synapses spark messages from the index finger,
Showering concrete idea onto brick and stone,
Messages in a freestyle manner of mental parkour,
Jumping from building to building,
Reaching out to you in a visual fashion,
Tasteful to the eyes as you take a brief moment to admire,
As Minnie Mark Eckos, marking their moments in time,
As it echoes out to the urban soul,
Where we take that to the bank,
As Banksy playing the teller,
Reminds us, tells us that world is still pretty fucked up,
Dark humor, political debates and cultural struggles,
While Keith Haring keeps us grounded with his thoughts on sexuality,
As he A.I.D.S. us walking into a new era of acceptance,
As you let it settle in your mind, while you think,
A moment in time, within a blink of an eye, lost,
Forever within the subconscious of the conscious soul,
Knowing, for a moment they were fearless.
Jed-Rene Tuliao is a poet/freelance writer from The Bronx, as well as a boxing and MMA practitioner. He currently works for the CUNY Joseph S. Murphy Institute as a college assistant IT. His passion for writing and fighting has driven him towards a better understanding of the human condition and its flaws. He gains his inspiration to write through his experiences in New York and his personal fight training.