Tattoo

The secretary eyed him with distaste,
The crude Indian ink told its own tale:
Untrustworthy, unsuited to this place;
Her shallow smile said there was no avail.

I'm sorry, but the job went yesterday;
He'd heard that line a hundred times before,
His simulated manners died away,
Scowling, eyes blazing, he made for the door.

He never heard her say goodbye as he
Stepped out into the busy thoroughfare,
And quickening his gait walked angrily
Towards the station, trying not to care.

Love, his right hand said, hate the other showed,
Bitter and mild beneath his summer shirt,
Cut here, the neck: he crossed the busy road,
Wondering why they treated him like dirt.

Disreputable, criminal, taboo,
The marks he carried spoke louder than words,
The cross on his forehead an ugly cue
That separated his kind from the herds.

Conspicuous to eyes trained to discern,
And not much less to those without a care,
One day perhaps he'll get wised up and learn
He carries his stigmata everywhere.

[The above was first published in the 1987 anthology We're Coming For Your Telecom Shares].

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