Mona Lisa Speaks

Judith Toler

Who wants to be me-
dead as a doornail
and turning green
behind three layers of glass
in cool and dessicated air,
allowed out only once a year,
prodded then propped
back into this open casket

where tourists troop by
studying my smile
seeing what they will:
smirking, serious, seductive, sweet?
Hiding her black teeth, no teeth, a gratifying fart?
Sanctimonious, saying her beads?
Faint from imagining those Vitruvian hands
roaming her body?

That set smile?
Well, you try sitting for five years
while Leonardo fusses and paints himself
into you, making your nose too long,
your hands into two fat fish
(not to mention those bags under your eyes),
then drags you around for years,
carts you across the Alps
only to betray you for a few gold coins.

Five hundred years-and
what do I have to show for it?
A few years of intrigue at the French court,
some hot moments watching Josephine frolic
with Napoleon in his bed,
two years of bliss when Vincenzo
took me in his arms, stole me away
promising to love me forever
but, bored with my never-ending smile,
tried to trade me for liras,
got caught.

Oh yes, one glorious moment when
Duchamp dada’d me
and that little moustache
tickled so much my silent laughter
shook the halls setting off alarms
at midnight.
That’s the only time I showed my teeth.
Now they watch me round the clock,
stuck forever with this frozen smile,
my body slowly turning a ghastly green.

Judith Toler is a reformed English teacher, now retired to Santa Fe. She started writing poetry seven years ago. In addition to words, she loves cats, folk music, Matisse, making art, and taking long walks in the foothills with her sweet dog, Lucy.