I’m deaf, I’m in mourning; I’ve just had a 2nd child.
I’m toothless, palsied, pregnant, paralyzed.
Clearly, I’m a reflection of the painter’s neuroses;
clearly, I have a toothache. Turn the canvas
sideways, at a 45-degree angle. Scan the dark swirls:
and you’ll see them, the buffalo and the lion. Twenty
animals in all, including a snake representing
envy, a leopard because its skin kills the wanting
of what we don’t have. I’m the Jolly Lady, wife
of Francesco del Giocondo; I’m Lisa (a real-life person);
I’m idealized, the artist’s mother, the Madonna (a mule
nestles between my breasts—have you spotted
the ape?) Superimposed on a Chinese landscape,
I’m the eternal female, queen of sepulchral secrets.
My half-smile is the smile of enlightenment,
and those glowing hands? So Buddha. In 1962,
posing with Jackie and JFK, I was valued at $720 million,
six times the price of a Pollock or de Kooning.
Some have said that in my placid eyes tiny letters
and numbers reveal I’m Gian Giamono Caprotti,
my painter’s apprentice, but don’t buy it.
Forget the theories relating to my lack
of eyebrows and lashes, lost not from plucking
but the ravages of restoration. Housed at Versailles,
entwined myself in the Sun King’s cucumber patch,
silently basked in Le Tuileries while Napoleon, quaffing
his coveted Chambertin, scuffed around in beat-up red slippers.
When WW2 broke out, they wrapped me in waterproof paper,
whisked me to a land of poppies and castles. Behind
two layers of bulletproof glass, I live on at the Louvre,
where each year seven million spend an average
of fifteen seconds discerning my ambiguous mood. I’m
unfinished; I’ve been stuffed beneath a trench coat, smuggled
back to Florence. Doused with acid, stoned, pummeled
with a teacup. Touched-up, varnished, de-varnished, infested
with insects; fumigated. I’m a miasma of optical illusions;
my paint is cracking. My visage excites the random noise
in your visual system; emotion recognition software reveals
I’m 83% happy, 9% disgusted, 6% fearful, two pinches angry,
one iota neutral. You love me like you love your sphinx,
your flying saucers, your Area 51; I’m your koan,
your inscrutable floozy, your syphilitic conundrum,
your angelic aspara, your enduring durga. You’re here
because I render you agog, aha-less, uncomfortably mum.
This selection comes from Martha Silano’s Reckless Lovely, available from Saturnalia Books. Purchase your copy here!
Martha Silano is the author of four books of poetry, including The Little Office of the Immaculate Conception, chosen by Campbell McGrath as the winner of the 2010 Saturnalia Books Poetry Prize and Reckless Lovely (Saturnalia Books 2014). She also co-edited, with Kelli Russell Agodon, The Daily Poet: Day-By-Day Prompts For Your Writing Practice (Two Sylvias Press 2013). Her poems have appeared in numerous magazines and journals, including Paris Review, Poetry, Orion, American Poetry Review, and North American Review, where she received the 2014 James Hearst Poetry Prize, as well as in many anthologies, including American Poetry: The Next Generation and The Best American Poetry 2009. Martha serves as poetry editor of Crab Creek Review, curates Beacon Bards, a Seattle-based reading series, and teaches at Bellevue College.
Leslie LaChance edits Mixitini Matrix: A Journal of Creative Collaboration, has curated The Wardrobe for Sundress Publications and written poetry reviews for Stirring: A Literary Collection. Her poems have appeared in literary journals, and her chapbook, How She Got That Way, was published in the quartet volume Mend & Hone by Toadlily Press in 2013. She teaches literature and writing at Volunteer State Community College in Tennessee, and if she is not teaching, writing, or editing, she has probably just gone to make some more espresso.
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