Wayne Thiebaud

David Starkey

Mona Lisa loves the guy’s paintings. Bright
colors, semi-realistic but a crackpot
sense of perspective.
There’s this row of hammers, and plates of cream
soup, and black shoes, dark candy
apples, lipstick, a yellow dress.

That one with the lightbulb, screwdriver
and roll of masking tape really
flips her out.
Leonardo’s, like,
Okay, is there a shortage of subjects,
or something?” But Mona Lisa digs it all,
especially the weird landscapes:

The San Francisco streets tipsy,
angling steep as cliffs,
or some grand apartment building
nestled up on a hill like
one of those castles in Italy-
but all it’s looking down on is

freeway traffic. Hah! Mona Lisa triumphs,
but Leonardo’s gone on home. Look,
she wants to say, this proves it. Even if
you try to paint your Republic over
with a palette thick and dazzling, the place
bleeds through, it betrays you.

David Starkey teaches in the MFA program at Antioch University-Los Angeles, and is the author of a textbook, Poetry Writing: Theme and Variations (NTC, 1999), as well as several collections of poems, most recently Fear of Everything (Palanquin Press, 2000) and David Starkey’s Greatest Hits (Pudding house, 2002). He has published numerous poems in literary magazines such as American Scholar, Beloit Poetry Journal, Cutbank, High Plains Literary Review, and Sycamore Review.