Monday, December 10, 2007

Tattoos – A Conversation

I strolled today with Reverend Spate
Upon the beach at Donabate
Which, basking in the summer heat,
Was, as becomes its wont, replete
With bodies lying stretched and still,
Like kippers cooking ‘pon a grill.
And as we strolled with sandy feet
Around this mass of cooking meat,
The Reverend happened to remark
Upon the etchings deep and dark
Adorning arm and derrière
Of every second person there.
The Reverend, living in life’s crêche
Knows little of the painted flesh,
But learns of life through novelettes,
About which he routinely frets.
“Are these all real?” he thus enquired,
Discreetly pointing, as required,
At anchors, angels, ships and braids
‘Pon upper calves and shoulder blades.
I harumphed like a Philistine
(Tattoos being a pet hate of mine)
And with the smallest nod of head,
Confirmed the truth of what he’d said.
It was a while before he spoke,
And then the lengthy silence broke,
With ne’er a trace of whim nor joke
To ask if these were “sailing folk?”
“Sailing folk?” I loudly snorted,
At the image this imported,
And bending down, I swept a glut
Of clammy seaweed from my foot.
Gnarled old sea dogs telling tales
Of close encounters with fierce whales,
And losing masts and mizzen sails
In terrifying southern gales,
And drinking rum in dockside bars,
And navigating by the stars,
And getting into narrow scrapes
With giant squid, and rounding capes
In rolling seas, lashed to the wheel,
Harpooning walrus, shark and seal,
And walking planks and abject fears
Of meeting ghostly buccaneers???
I gazed around upon the rows
Of tender bodies in repose,
And then addressed the image that
The Reverend had been hinting at.
“My learnéd friend,” I ventured forth,
As we perambulated north.
“I’d venture that these painted clowns –
For want of more descriptive nouns –
Have never slept aboard a ship
Or voyaged further than a trip
To Holyhead and back again
Upon the placid Irish main.
It pains me, sir, to break the news
That sporting these absurd tattoos,
(Which I consider great pishogue,)
Is, at the moment, much in vogue.
It seems that all these little elves
Feel urged to beautify themselves
With celtic or far-eastern script
In inky colours dourly dipped.
Or else they choose to etch the names
Of wives or girlfriends, latest flames,
Which doubtless they will come to rue
When that relationship falls through.
And tattoos now, where once confined
To those more nautically inclined,
Are favoured now by every shrimp
And lily-livered knock-kneed wimp
To show the world that they are tough,
Constructed of the harder stuff,
Whereas in fact, ‘tis a deceit.
To paint one’s skin requires no feat
Of courage, bravery or valour,
For even those of deathly pallor,
Lawyers, tax consultants, bankers,
Now sport little skulls and anchors.
A man is judged by deeds and views,
Not whether he has got tattoos.”
The Reverend Spate (my rant complete)
Perused the sand beneath his feet,
And thus we walked along the beach,
Devoid of any need for speech,
Skirting all those tanning hides
Spreadeagled round us from all sides.
At length, the Reverend glanced at me
(I thought, a little warily)
And then, which I could scarce believe,
Pulled back his shirt’s flamboyant sleeve,
Revealing verses from a psalm
Tattooed upon his spindly arm.
Made the final shortlist of the Swift Satire Poetry Competition 2007

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