This selection, chosen by Guest Editor Jordi Alonso, is from Eve and All the Wrong Men by Aviya Kushner, released by dancing girl press & studio in 2019.
THE FIRST TIME
I first heard of Venus of Urbino
when I was eighteen:
half a life ago, I calculate, to my shock,
she was a slide in a dark classroom,
as a professor in a mustard jacket
with a French accent, went on and on—
She’s just as she was then,
just as she was,
when, at nineteen, I spent nineteen
cramped hours on an overnight train
to come see her:
soft belly, hand chastely
on crotch, a goddess
of flawless skin
and unaroused nipples
clutching a flower and looking
at us, as if to say,
I am lovely, I am familiar.
So serenely does she think—
I will outlast you.
Aviya Kushner grew up in a Hebrew-speaking home in New York. She is the author of Wolf Lamb Bomb (Orison Books, June 2021), The Grammar of God (Spiegel & Grau / Penguin Random House 2015), and the chapbook Eve and All the Wrong Men (Dancing Girl Press, 2019). She is The Forward‘s language columnist and an associate professor at Columbia College Chicago, where she directs the MFA Program in Creative Writing. Find her on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.
Jordi Alonso holds a BA from Kenyon College, an MFA from Stony Brook University, and a PhD in English from the University of Missouri where he studied nineteenth century British literature, classical reception in the Victorian era, and ancient Greek. He will begin his studies towards an MA in Classical Studies at Columbia University in the fall. His first book, a collection of erotic poems inspired by Sappho, Honeyvoiced, was published by XOXOX Press in November of 2014. His chapbook, The Lovers’ Phrasebook was published in 2017 by Red Flag Press. He is currently writing a third book of poems based on ancient Greek divination practices at Delphi.