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The Second Mona Lisa is Not Real But

CAS for Database

Yun-Fei Wang

Taipei, Taiwan

Taipei Fuhsing Private School


she is a hand reaching into time and threading each hour-hand

like a girl braiding her lover’s burnt ends, tucked in a hat

worn by the other brood, a mouth with cavities rotting

lopsided. The difference between pretty and beautiful is that

men only see pretty (and girls fear the beautiful): slip-ups

between lip & chin between chin & the underside of the jaw

between tongue & neck between air. Historians say

the first Mona Lisa could’ve been da Vinci’s gay male lover and that

the Louvre was a place for beheading in the Reign of Terror, so

which was harder to sound out––the syllables of gay or

beheading? or two in the same breath? The second Mona Lisa

is your middle school crush engraving a slur into

your locker door hinge & you remembering it as a love

letter / is the stash of nude magazines under your childhood bedframe /

is the drunken incurvature in a back-alley bar either a warp of time

or a stranger’s asymmetrical dimple/ is the brutal lingering

of that summer had you been older it would’ve meant something

but not before the spectacles of God, never out loud. Ghastly face,

a less sculpted countenance, the second Mona Lisa is a painting

in which you reach out to her jaw––neck––clavicle––bare-skin and

she smiles, more beautiful than pretty (and you remember

your teachers telling you that girls should like beautiful things.)

The second Mona Lisa is one of those billboards in museums

that visitors stick their heads in for a picture until it is your turn

& the cardboard breaks into a guillotine and you learn

that the second Mona Lisa could be anyone but you who wrote

this poem: in your lines you are the only conscious ghost &

the second Mona Lisa is not real despite your disillusioned efforts

capitalizing her name like one’s clandestine affair / locket necklace

after the living room lights fall dim, name lodged in the rhyme scheme

of this poem that does not rhyme / is someone covering up

slurs on their locker door for the first time––not knowing

the first Mona Lisa could’ve been da Vinci’s male lover (and the second

could’ve been anything if she were real.) Your body folds itself

through time and guillotine while the Lorde song plays & you see

a feminine hand anchoring your filet of a head between your

childhood bedframe and the frame of your pale white body. The

second Mona Lisa is a free-pass, a coupon, thrown on the museum floor,

a fallacy for you to forgive your middle school love,

your Mona Lisa all this time, circled back to before the first.


Achingly intimate, “The Second Mona Lisa is Not Real But” tumbles headfirst into its reflections, seizing the archetypal Mona Lisa and reshaping her replica in an exploration of sexuality, vulnerability, and coming of age. The author constructs cuttingly cyclical visuals of the human body, with each vignette diverging into a separate narrative as the speaker navigates the fluid boundaries of reality and conception. Ultimately, the piece tapers off at its emotional zenith, evoking a silence that persists.

Yun-Fei Wang is a high school student from Taiwan and an incoming freshman at Wellesley College. She has been recognized by the John Locke Institute, Polyphony Lit, Bow Seat, and more.


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