Tattoo

Tattoo
by Ted Kooser

What once was meant to be a statement—
a dripping dagger held in the fist
of a shuddering heart—is now just a bruise
on a bony old shoulder, the spot
where vanity once punched him hard
and the ache lingered on. He looks like
someone you had to reckon with,
strong as a stallion, fast and ornery,
but on this chilly morning, as he walks
between the tables at a yard sale
with the sleeves of his tight black T-shirt
rolled up to show us who he was,
he is only another old man, picking up
broken tools and putting them back,
his heart gone soft and blue with stories.

2 thoughts on “Tattoo

  1. Yeah, I bet that old man could still knock any one of us on our ass. Seems like a lot of typecasting going on here. I’m no fan of tattoos but to chalk it all up to vanity with nothing else going on seems like pushing the square peg in round hole bit as does writing the old man off as a has been who’s washed up just cause he’s looking at broken tools. That’s the best thing about we ‘broken people’–we keep going even after we’ve taken a beating and we’re young at heart.

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