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  • Lea Housley

Death of Venus



I wonder if she’s ever noticed

how people talk to her art through their eyes.

The first girl that loved me told me

my body looked like a classical painting.


Now I am a prisoner to this museum.

Fifty paintings in this cramped gallery room

and I am the only abstract.

Pointillism people flit from exhibit to exhibit,

packed up against velvet ropes.

I wonder if I could duck under

so as to become

Untouchable.


A girl stops in front of my frame.

She is the one who painted me, but she refuses to look at me.

Black bangs hang down her face as it’s shaded in the glow

of a cell phone. I see this and think of

the endless hours I spent as a muse.

Black paint dripped down razor blade shoulders.

Her eyelashes brushed on bare skin.

Ripe peach paint mixed into a breast.

Another touch, another kiss.

But a painting is not meant to be a lifeline.


I want her to look at me but there’s nothing left to see.

She has blended all the unseeable color out of me.

And I do not believe I will have value when she dies

or in a hundred thousand years or when my canvas

is pulled out of the arsonist’s fire that will befall all art someday.

For what is a work of art if it does not make you feel something,

if you cannot touch it.


I have to mean something,

I have to say something, to her,

as my broken nails tear through sedimentary layers of paint,

cracked and crusted and wrong from years of painting over

her own mistakes.

As I push off out of the golden frame,

as my sketched body skids misshapenly across the floor,

as the paint flakes off me like shed snakeskin,

I take a sledgehammer to the gallery.

With every pound a broken frame, a freed prisoner,

with every scream a glass case shatters,

burning paintings fall

and the dull crowd scatters.

Take a photo,

I’ll last longer.

I pick up the bust of her head and

though she’s begging me to stop, please,

to remember the meaning that she gave me,

to let her paint over me just one more time, just once,

I hurl it at the wall and watch the marble

shrapnel rain down until she is buried and the

hand that once held the brush is crushed beyond repair.

Despite its last words at the hands of the artist,

this artwork does not forgive its creator.



Lea Housley is a 22-year-old lesbian creative writing student from Mesa, Arizona. They've had a passion for writing ever since their first-grade teacher raved about their debut picture book, "Kitty January" (about what cats do in each month of the year). Nowadays, though, they'd probably rather write about the cats' reality falling about or the cats transcending the concept of gender entirely.

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