Oh, Mona!

David Bengtson

Your faces surround me, not like a room
of mirrors, but of windows through which
all of you silently watch, Oh
Mona of postcards and greeting cards.

When students ask what’s with
all the Mona’s, I usually say, “well,
if we had lives at the same time
in the same place, sparks would have flown.”

I explain that my wife understands
the obsession, that she doesn’t fear
or resent Mona. Oh, Mona of shirts
and socks and neckties. Mona of key chains.

Are you really Leonardo? Is he sitting here,
smiling at himself, one hand resting on the other,
a blurred landscape in the background?
Oh, Mona of jigsaw puzzles and calendars.

How could you have known
that someone would duplicate your face,
use colored pencils lightly on your forehead and
cheeks, your nose and chin?

Oh, Mona of the painted barn, Mona of the moustache,
Mona of 1,000 Mona Lisas, how could you
have known that a guest poet would stamp
your forehead with a T.S. Eliot worth 22 cents?

Red-eyed Mona, white-eyed Mona,
Mona painted in oils by twins who, after graduation,
brought you to my house, a gift, they said, while
apologizing for not finishing your hands.

Sunglassed Mona, Mona of Nat King Cole,
Mona sitting in a corner, arms folded around
your legs, how much did he pay you, Mona?
What did he promise for this sitting?

David Bengtson’s poems and short prose have appeared in Ascent, Lake Country Journal, New Letters, New England Review, and other journals. He has also published three collections: Broken Lines (Juniper Press, 2003), The Man from Coal Lake (Scythe Press), and Open Windows (Juniper Press, 1990). For over 33 years, he taught high school in Long Prairie, MN, where his collections of Mona items graces the walls of this classroom. During his final week of teaching he read “Oh, Mona!” to his students as a farewell.