Tattoo Parlor

Every night I pass this storefront window,
glimpse an empty chair and table.
Early or late, its “open” sign is blinking.
If business is being transacted,
it is behind a door that remains closed.
Still, I always stop and look,
half-expecting to find someone there,
exposing a bare arm
as the owner practices his painful craft
with studied indifference.
Yet empty as the street, and as spooky,
all I see is dim lamplight.
Decades ago it would have been home
to drunken sailors and
the lovelorn, but the only face staring
back is my own reflection.
I try to picture myself on the other side,
choosing an indelible design.
A fire-spitting dragon or flaming sword,
what dark secret will emerge?
As I hurry away, a nagging fear whispers
that the next time I pass,
I might find my brash alter ego seated,
perfectly at ease inside.
His grin mocking me as the practitioner
sculpts a permanence that
contrite second thoughts can never erase.

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