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Tempera

                                    Gary Leising


Because it is harder to correct, William Blake
thought it more ethical to paint in tempera than oil.
Imagine the curls in Eve’s hair as she names
the birds. Imagine her fingers running through them,
each curl a mistake, though only one or two
may have been—the unruly ones tamed by the locks
surrounding them, embracing them. The birds get names:
nightingale, swallow, thrush. They fill Eden’s sky,
that blue dome about to crack. Their world,
their Eden, about to crack. Its soil dries to clay,
lined as curls line Eve’s hair, dark tempera streaks
against the blonde. Eve roams the world now.
It is harder to live in the world, in our bodies,
which are like tempera, than to exist in the world
of oily minds. I have done things I will not name,
being no Eve, no Adam. Eve’s curls have fallen,
they are flattened, everything is a mistake.


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