Literary tattoos


I don’t have any tattoos, but I like seeing them on other people. Especially men. Most especially attractive men.



The health club is a good place for this, but there’s too much flesh in motion out on the fitness floor; you can’t get a focus on the most of the time. There’s one lean muscular guy who has something – what? An eagle? A military insignia? A cartoon character? – on his left arm. I cannot make it out for the life of me, and I have not (so far) gotten close enough to him to make out the detail. I think I will have to come up with something like an epileptic fit, so that I can collapse into his arms and get a good look at it.



Sometimes, however, they walk right up to you.



The other evening in the locker room, I was alone with a sort-of-cute younger guy – lean/muscular, beard, a little hairy. He had his back to me as he undressed. I glanced (?) up, and I saw a lovely tattoo, in beautifully-executed calligraphy, on his left shoulder-blade. “ . . . Paradise,” I read in my quick glance.



Oh, surely not!



But I took another look (I was cautious, because you never know if they’ll take offense at being examined). And I saw “And drunk the milk . . .”, and it was enough.



I got up to leave, just as he was wrapping his towel around his lean little waist to go into the showers, and I couldn’t resist. I turned back, as we were parting ways – and my goodness, he was a little more muscular than I’d thought! – and I said: “I really like your tattoo.”



To my delight, he lit up. “Really? You recognize the poem?”



“But naturally,” I said. “’A damsel with a dulcimer in a vision once I saw . . .’”



He laughed and thanked me.



How often does that happen?



And what inspired him to get those particular lines of poetry tattooed on his shoulder?



No matter. He was adorable, and giggly, and pleased that I’d recognized the poem.



(Which I will not identify here, because it is a Classic of English Literature, and you should have recognized it by now, and if you don’t recognize it from the clues I’ve dropped so far, you should be ashamed of yourself.)



(One more clue: “Beware! Beware! His flashing eyes, his floating hair!”)




About Loren Williams
Gay, partnered, living in Providence, working at a local university. Loves: books, movies, TV. Comments and recriminations can be sent to

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