Tuesday, 17 April 2012


On his arms he wears
Diagrams he chose,
A snake inside a skull,
A dagger in a rose,

And the muscle playing
Under the skin
Makes the rose writhe
And the skull grin.

He is one who acts his dreams
And these emblems are a clue
To the wishes in his blood
And what they make him do,

These signs are truer
Than the wearer knows:
The blade vibrates
In the vulnerable rose,

Anthers bend, and carmine curly
Petals kiss the plunging steel,
Dusty with essential gold
Close in upon the thing they feel.

Moistly once in bony sockets
Eyeballs hinted at a soul,
In the death’s head now a live head
Fills a different role;

Venomous resilience sliding
In the empty cave of thought,
Call it instinct ousting reason,
Or a reptile’s indoor sport.

The flower’s pangs, the snake exploring,
The skull, the violating knife,
Are the active and the passive
Aspects of his life,

Who is at home with death
More than he guesses;
The rose will die, and a skull
Gives back no caresses.

William Plomer (1903–1973)


Demetrius said...

Warts and all?

Anonymous said...

Personally I feel tattoos are a bit brutal except for those discreet tattoos some ladies have.

I met a well tattooed chap in town and he is an OK guy - and runs a (you guessed it) tattoo parlour. A very curious art form, often tacky but sometimes intriguing.

A K Haart said...

Demetrius - well warts can drop off.

Roger - I sometimes like tacky, if nothing else you know where you are with it.