The final portrait on our tour, unsigned
and hard to date, is of Lucretia, who
you may recall in ancient Rome refused
to live beyond her violation. Just now
I can’t name the culprit or his politics
but certainly her tale is grim. You’ll note
though young her face is full of storms. The scene
also depicts those pale and quaking hands
clutching a poignard pointed at her heart.
Poignard is a funny word and French for blade
or knife or little sword and if I had kept
my pocket translator I’d be exact.
We’re witnessing her final act before she stabs
it through her chest for pride and purity
she’s lost. Knowing which apprentice made
such woe his legacy would likely yield
us further clues. Suicides are typical
among the Baroque greats, who loved the theme
of how much blood a single body spurts
to splash on canvases. Consider how flushed
her cheeks appear, and thus foreshadow all
the crimson that will drench her gown. It’s all
quite sad and yet you have to grant she bears
a fierce and tragic boldness. Please hold
your questions for another time. I’m late
for brunch, but have another tour at one.
The gift shop near the exit has a sale
on scarves this week and some are quite divine.
We’ve seen the rooms to see before you die.
Adam Tavel is the author of six books of poetry. His latest collections are Rubble Square and Green Regalia, both with Stephen F. Austin State University Press. His recent poems appear in North American Review, Ploughshares, The Georgia Review, Beloit Poetry Journal, Ninth Letter, The Massachusetts Review, Copper Nickel, and Western Humanities Review, among others. You can find him online at http://adamtavel.com/.