The tattooed man
There’s little unmarked skin on his hands, his arms, his
He’s been tagged by many uncouth hands, extensively
scribbled on, talentlessly pricked and inked all over.
It’s as if he’s wearing a grey body stocking. It’s as if
he’s been rolled in the warm grey ashes of unholy fires.
Easy to feel affronted. Easy to feel a prim disapproval.
But then it dawns on me that this outrageous fright is
really as white and skinny as myself (though forty years
younger). And when I’m told that he’s deaf and dumb
and a product of ‘state care’ (boys’ homes, borstals, jails),
I begin to understand how he came to be so grimly