Mona Lisa Imagines
The virgins on the rocks were never
unhappy, yet you painted them twice.
At least the twelve apostles could
gnaw meat off bones while they lingered
or leaned into a bit of gossip
or fingered silver coins. Today
you want my hands folded just this way.
Chiaroscuro, you call it,
a new way of seeing, but oh,
I am tired, wait like an unanswered
prayer or an angel condemned
to kneel forever, while you study
the slant of light and adjust shadows
with a thumb. Today it's your hair
that has me worried, flying out from
your head, your beard a silver nest
for insects and stray bits of food.
And Leonardo, you have such nasty
habits: belching after every meal,
farting when you bend for a rag,
or scratching your balls and peeing
from the balcony into the lilies
below. Now you could use a bath
and those nails clipped, but once
you might have been handsome.
Maybe then you'd have painted me
younger, crowned with roses, my fingers
full of gold rings. Why not ask me
about the scar on my arm or my crooked
little finger? Will anyone remember
the smoky haze around my face,
the subtle shift of light and dark,
see how much it hurt to smile?
– karla huston
"Mona Lisa Imagines" was first published in Pearl, and in Karla Huston's chapbooks Flight Patterns, winner of the Main Street Rag chapbook competition, and Virgins on the Rocks, .