Tattoos – A Poem

hula girl

I tried to take rubbings of his tattoos-the hula girl,
the palm trees, the sailing ship,  the crossed cannons,
the anchor. The hula girl danced for me when he flexed
his forearm. He never told me where he’d got them.

He was in the war when he was eighteen, and he was an
old man when he came home at twenty. His ships pulled
into ports where Sailors got drunk and happy. War made
men do things, then let them try and forget.

After the war ended he tried to find his way but never
quite found his footing. He raised a family and visited
his folks, and he smiled sometimes and told the few jokes
he knew that made people laugh. He worked hard.

The hula girl stopped dancing one day. I tried to take
rubbings of his tattoos but there was nothing to stick to
paper. He never tried to hide them from good people. The
tattoos. The ones he got in the war. When he was happy.

15 thoughts on “Tattoos – A Poem

  1. I like seeing how some tats change with the age of the wearer (not all of them….). The ones of those who got theirs way back when were from a time of terror and beauty and a world we can only imagine.

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  2. Dad’s were all black, no color. The dancing girl in the image I posted is the same as the one he had; I imagine she was a popular tattoo for Sailors in WWII. Dad must have gotten his in Pearl, San Diego, or San Francisco. Maybe even Norfolk since that’s where he went to gunnery school before he shipped out for the Pacific. In any case, I loved his tattoos. They show in some photos but not very well and not close enough to make out detail.

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  3. “The ones he got in the war/When he was happy”… This paradox pulled at my heartstrings, representing to me, the forgotten and uncared for veterans, and perhaps worse, the ones next to us and loved, but who cannot ever fully return to us. We have two military bases near us, where I currently live. I teach military children and offer a handshake of thanks whenever I pass someone in uniform. Thank you for your personal service, as well. ❤ I always want to do more in this world…(I typed and deleted here several times, I don't know…the words escape me…) We all need to do more when it comes to honoring and caring for our veterans. The first time I witnessed a member of the military on a plane I was on, I couldn't believe no one treated him differently. "You" are superheroes to me. I wish you all came back unharmed, physically and mentally. 😦

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    1. Thank you for sharing Tattoos. I intended to write something completely different, but my pen had other ideas 🙂
      I never know how to respond peoples’ thanks for my service. On the one hand, saying you’re welcome seems self-serving. On the other, saying thank you in return seems silly. “Thank you for your service. Thank you for thanking me. Well, thank you for thanking me for thanking you….” Stop! 🙂
      I’m a DoD civil service employee and work in the Navy program I was in when I retired from the Navy. I’m surrounded by veterans of all services, but mostly Navy. There aren’t any overtly suffering veterans among them, but then you never know what a person is going through outside work. I think the best thing we can do for veterans is make sure they have reliable health care. You see homeless veterans on the streets in every city, a problem our politicians seem to care little about solving.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. 🙂 Well, that is a wonderful report regarding none overtly suffering, and I have heard about the poor healthcare and seen the homeless. 😦 It is always sad to stop dancing, too, especially for hula girls.

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