In the silence that prolongs the span Rawly of music when the record ends, The red-haired boy who drove a van In weekday overalls but, like his friends, Wore cycle boots and jacket here To suit the Sunday hangout he was in, Heard, as he stretched back from his beer, Leather creak softly round his neck and chin. Before him, on a coal-black sleeve Remote exertion had lined, scratched, and burned Insignia that could not revive The heroic fall or climb where they were earned. On the other drinkers bent together, Concocting selves for their impervious kit, He saw it as no more than leather Which, taut across the shoulders grown to it, Sent through the dimness of a bar As sudden and anonymous hints of light As those that shipping give, that are Now flickers in the Bay, now lost in night. He stretched out like a cat, and rolled The bitterish taste of beer upon his tongue, And listened to a joke being told: The present was the things he stayed among. If it was only loss he wore, He wore it to assert, with fierce devotion, Complicity and nothing more. He recollected his initiation, And one especially of the rites. For on his shoulders they had put tattoos: The group's name on the left, The Knights, And on the right the slogan Born To Lose.
From Collected Poems by Thom Gunn, published by Farrar, Straus & Giroux, Inc. Copyright © 1994 by Thom Gunn. Used with permission.