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Lay for the Day
12th December


1913: the Mona Lisa, missing for more than two years, is retrieved in Florence. The thief, Vincenzo Perugia, had tried to sell it to the Uffizi Gallery. The world’s most famous painting was stolen from the Louvre on 21st August 1911.
(The day of its recovery was the twelfth day of the twelfth month of the twelfth year of the 20th century – which reckoned its first year to have been ’01, not ’00 like the 21st.)
In the absence of Leonardo’s masterpiece, the blank space on the wall where it had hung still drew many visitors.
 

In the Louvre (part 3)

Withdrawn
In her bank-note green
Pool
With the smile

Of a fish that’s swallowed a cat,
We shoal before her to wonder
To which proposal
She is the that is that.

Little Lisa Giaconda
Whose angles adjust to dusk,
Affiched with hashish ’taches,
Lady of and not

Of the house unseen,
The illuminated plain,
Venus of betweenness,
The cusp-keeper,

It seems the appearance of your eyes
Has taken us in, though aimed at none.
Your nibble tugs the heartline
At the vanishing point.

Look west, young woman,
From your eastern window,
Look kindly into the room
You have made our home.

 
John Gibbens
from The Promise


“Affiched with hashish ’taches” is a reference to Marcel Duchamp’s “readymade” artwork L.H.O.O.Q. – a print of the Mona Lisa with a moustache and beard drawn on. The letters of the title, when spoken in French, sound like “Elle a chaud au queue” – She’s got a hot tail. I don’t know if Duchamp smoked hashish. It would have been remiss of him not to.

The Lay Reader: an archive of the poetic calendar