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

View the Mona Lisa

"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, .