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He pedaled his bike from the rented house
to the tattoo shop.
He was 35 years old.
He rode past the shop, went up a couple blocks.
Turned around.
Rode back, but out of sight of the big window.
Took a deep breath. Went in.
He showed the tattoo artist what he wanted.
A bicycle chain wheel with a peace sign
inside it: the Peace Cog.
“No problem,” said the artist.
Tommy, his name was.
Tommy went into the back.
The 35-year-old with his bare arms
waited on a vinyl chair,
back to the big window
and the traffic on the street outside.
After a few minutes Tommy returned,
the design drawn on a tissue-thin paper.
“Come on back,” Tommy said.


Later, at the union hall, a young coworker
spotted the ink on his forearm.
“Dude, did you get a tattoo?”
He felt … was it cool? Was he cool?
“Yeah,” he said.

/ / /

31 August 2023
Charlottesville VA

This is poem 41 in a series called 50 Days Till 50 Years. I’m writing a poem a day for the 50 days leading up to my 50th birthday. I’m going to try to focus on memories of my past, and the people who inhabited it.

Published in 50 Days Till 50 Years Albany Cycling Labor movement My poems Poetry


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