The slight lift of the mouth
that da Vinci captured skillfully
has baffled mankind for centuries.
Could it be, as philosophers speculate,
a reflection of every
human’s innermost desire.
In short, a reflection of
Or maybe the scientists hypothesized correctly
and it’s simply a malfunction of the eye
that causes the smile to morph
as a watchful gaze shifts to a more
casual sidelong glance.
Finally, after years of speculation,
debate, scholarly discourse,
disputes, and hypothesis,
da Vinci speaks
from the grave.
The smile is, perhaps,
not as most people believe,
a sly smirk of omniscience.
Instead, if you look closely enough,
you can almost see that
it is the restrained chuckle
of the woman whose painter said,
“se si starnutisce, si prega di starnuto a posto”--
If you sneeze, please sneeze in place.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.