David Lewis Paget
The Tattooed Man - Poem by David Lewis Paget
He looked like a common sailor
As he wandered up from the port,
Carried his swag on his shoulder,
Wore a cap of the jaunty sort,
His eyes were livid and bloodshot,
Staring, under a tattooed brow,
And on his cheeks, a scatter of stars
As seen from an old ship's prow.
He stopped at the Mariners Arms
And bought a room on the upper floor,
Went out and stood on the balcony,
And stared on down at the square,
He'd left his shirt in the tiny room,
His torso, full in view,
There wasn't an inch of his sailor skin
Untouched by a bright tattoo.
His arms were covered in serpents
Writhing up, and under his chin,
His shoulders, Chinese Characters,
Of Ports, where he might have been,
His sides were covered in fungi
Found in tropical forest glades,
And down on his muscular midriff
The ubiquitous Queen of Spades.
And there on his chest in colours
Very subtle, and so refined,
There lay a naked woman
Baring all as she lay reclined,
Her lips were coloured in scarlet gloss
And pursed in a sensual pout,
Her eyes a searching, brilliant blue
That would find her lover out.
He turned away from the village square
And rested back on the rail,
So now the tattoos across his back
Could be seen... a Schooner's sail,
With storm-filled clouds and a rising swell
As the breakers slid on by,
And over the top, above it all
A piercing, staring eye!
For every passer-by that stared
The eye had stared them back,
Had stared right into the guilty soul
Where every sin was black!
And hairs rose up on the back of the neck,
And shivers ran down the spine,
As guilt drove men to the 'Man of War'
To drown their fears in wine!
And I... I came to the Mariners Arms
And I saw the tattoos there,
And the woman, bared on the sailor's chest
Made me quake and shake in fear,
For the face was unmistakable,
I had left her safe at home,
That face of lust was the woman I trust,
Was the wife I knew as Joan.
For days the sailor prowled the streets
And he peered through windows there,
But he never wore a shirt nor coat,
And he kept his torso bare,
The tattoos seemed to come to life
As he moved, they moved with him,
I saw the serpents flickering tongues
Reach out, and under his chin!
And from his back, the eye stared out
Made strong men weak and quail,
Their knees gave way as it stared them down
And they felt their courage fail,
Then Joan saw him in the market place,
And stood there, hypnotized,
As she stared at the face on the sailor's chest,
And he pierced her, with his eyes.
I saw her enter the Mariners Arms
And I tried to call her back,
But she walked like one in a crazy dream
And I heard her call him, 'Jack...'
They disappeared up the stairway,
Made their way to the upper floor,
I had raced to the top of the stairs when they
Went in, and locked the door.
Out in the street, the clouds rolled in
And the sea beat up on the shore,
The rain came down in a torrent,
Lightning flashed at the old Inn door,
Then he came out on the balcony,
Turned round, and showed his back,
Clung to the mast of the Schooner
There was a woman, dressed in black!
I followed the sailor down the street
In the wind and the pouring rain,
As lightning lit the storm on his back
And the woman screamed in pain,
But on his chest was an open space
And the eye had stared me down,
As he boarded a battered Schooner,
And then sailed away from the town!
24 August 2010
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