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Battling Dragons ©

Marc R. Sherland
Glasgow, Scotland
2005

I got a tattoo once. From the parlour,
Having waited patient as a tiger,
In the queue, parked in the lounge of the shop;
Where images of lions, fairies, wasps,
And even roses writhed in bright designs,
In open catalogues and pinned to walls.

The receptionist emblazoned with hues,
A work in finite progress, toyed with us,
Teasing with ripples of her body art
Unknowing that she played to jaundiced eyes.
The queue was informed by indecision
Over art, that might last them a lifetime.

I knew what I wanted, tales of Arthur,
Merlin, of George and Michael, held in thrall.
But others wanted Celtic black line work
And some oriental characters,
That were unknown qualities and might spell
‘The wearer is an arse’ or ‘I hate spooks’.
I judged their choices frivolous and vain.

I chose my dragon a blue vibrant thing,
Wrapped around a black thorn, with fire breath.
Not quite the European typical,
More Asian and ethnic, but would do,
Since the British standard did not exist,
If it ever had. I was not worried,
It would do for a lifetime of body art.

My turn came too soon, the queue dwindling
As those, with white gauze taped to arms or chest
Left the back room, still doing up buttons,
Of blouses or shirts, gingerly wincing.
I marched through the bead curtain, bold with aim
And unfastened my shirt, a willing lamb,
To be branded with bright insignia.

I was advised my choice was brave folly,
Since it was my first and on my breast too,
But I smiled, as my few hairs were shaved off.
Lain on a psyche’s couch and angled upward
Nearly fainted as insults of black ink,
Pricked into raw flesh like a punishment,
And I refused to rise to the challenge.

The machinist, artist with flared needle,
Laughed at my greying pallor, gave tissues,
And a glass of water. Head between knees.
An idea of terror, a half myth beast
Unfinished, illusory pathetic,
Pinned me to the chair, when flight was preferred.
Colour began to give creature comfort.

His knuckles “LOVE & HATE” personified,
Victims of youthful passions, now at bay,
Managed an orchestrated alliance,
So he worked in a treaty of talent.
Soon with lint and gauze and splashes of blood
I was released to smear salve on my wound,
Which was, I confirmed, Dragon inflicted.


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