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Adam Tavel


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

Bear Review


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