Sailor Art

by H. D. Brown

the scrimshaw scratchings
covering grandpa Schmidt
weren’t the patterned sailor
tattoos that cover these college girls

Captain Norm got em one at a
time the oldfashioned way
screwed stewed and tattooed
around the edges of the oceans

gave him something to look at
whenever those fucking germans
sank him he said
floating around in an octagon plywood

box with whatever you grab
and a few dying shipmates one
time for forty five days
might change a man I guess

all it did for captain norm
is drive him to more tattoos
by the time he died he was covered
all five feet four inches that was left of him

we did what he asked skinned
and tanned the son of a bitch
hung his hide behind a sheet of
glass at the San Pedro seaman’s bethel