La Gioconda

Ibba Partington

And he was coaxing you wasn’t he
the great Signore da Vinci
wondering at that depth of sadness he saw in you
“my lady oh my lady – Mona Lisa
now a beautiful smile my lady-”

hair like gosling down

He did not know he asked a smile
from a woman who had just lost her first child
who felt still the fierce tug
of milk raging in her swollen breasts

skin perfect as porcelain

You did as he asked and that wisp of smile
appeared down all the centuries

the child’s last breath slid from her lips

Behind your eyes a sadness deep
as earth’s center burned in you

after many minutes the child stiffened
after many minutes more unstiffened
moon-pale face cradled

The o ne they called Leonardo
sensed all
and wrapped it
in your enigmatic smile

they had to pry her from your arms

Ibba Partington has taught poetry and art history in upstate New York for the past eight years. “La Gioconda” is her exploration of one theory for Mona Lisa’s mysterious expression.