Foreign Substance

‘Wild children with a red lipstick play with God’

Facing Buddha, Diana Brebner

I ask the children to draw God

with a red lipstick. No thinking.

Quick strokes. No lifting the hand

until done.

First child says she sees nothing, just white.

But her palm seems to be burning. She allows

the smallest red dot, but even that carries

risk, smear of the too-late mighty thumb.

The second child turns the page into a grid,

horizontal and vertical lines of absolute.

He is anxious about possibility, creation

twisting on the sharp error of one degree.

The white-eyelashed child fills the page

corner to corner, worries her fingers through

the paper’s weave, down to the cellular level.

No white allowed. No apple flesh for worm.

The fourth organizes a lineup of puckered lips,

where on white to smack their painted gobs.

This requires compromise. (How much white

space is really necessary? Who gets the last kiss?)

To calm themselves, they cut their papers

into quarters to store for the next century

of artists (re-assembly instructions included).

But the white-eyelashed child is trembling –

she sees the flaw. When viewed from a distance,

an undertone of fuschia, infestation in every sheet.

She gathers them up, holds them to her chest.

Her thin limbs pinken. Blood rises to her cuticles.

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