Bocca Baciata

                             painting by Dante Gabriel Rossetti

 

The kissed mouth does not lose its savor.

This Italian proverb is on the back of the painting.

The model is Fanny Cornforth, in his favor

 

the night Rossetti’s wife OD’s—he can’t save her,

he testifies (leaving Fanny out) at the hearing.

The kissed mouth does not lose its savor.

 

Biographers say she expected what men gave her—

not compliments, gifts (as long as it was something).

The model, Fanny Cornforth, was much in favor.

 

Rossetti told of his wife’s stillborn and how brave of her

to carry on—but not whom he was with that evening.

The kissed mouth does not lose its savor.

 

Titled “The mouth that is kissed,” it depicts the savior

as a woman who will surrender to men everything—

of which Fanny Cornforth, model, was all in favor.

 

On the painting verso, such a proverb adds flavor,

advising: As the moon renews herself at evening

so the kissed mouth does not lose its savor

nor Fanny Cornforth, model, Rossetti’s favor.

 

Stephen Gibson is the author of seven poetry collections, most recently Self-Portrait in a Door-Length Mirror (2017 Miller Williams Prize winner, selected by Billy Collins, University of Arkansas Press), The Garden of Earthly Delights Book of Ghazals (Texas Review Press, 2016), Rorschach Art Too (2014 Donald Justice Prize, Story Line Press, West Chester University), Paradise (Miller Williams finalist University of Arkansas Press, 2011), Frescoes (Lost Horse Press book prize, 2010), Masaccio’s Expulsion (MARGIE/IntuiT House book prize, 2008), and Rorschach Art (Red Hen Press, 2001). He has been a recipient of Individual Artist Fellowships from the State of Florida in both poetry and fiction. His poetry and fiction have appeared in such journals as Able Muse, American Arts Quarterly, The American Journal of Poetry, Copper Nickel, Gargoyle, The Georgia Review, The Gettysburg Review, Lake Effect, Louisiana Literature, Nimrod, North American Review, The Paris Review, Per Contra, Pleiades, Poetry, Quiddity, River Styx, Salamander, The Sewanee Review, Shenandoah, The Southern Review, Southwest Review, The Texas Review, Unsplendid, Valparaiso Poetry Review, and The Yale Review.

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