Souvenir of the Gilded Age

for Audrey Munson

American Venus, Miss Manhattan,
Beaux-Arts beauty frozen in iron,
in granite, in tapestry—her face

both ubiquitous and anonymous,
her torso cast in marble,
in bronze, on canvas and in film.

Girl o’ Dreams, her visage
on bridges, her simulacrum on coins—
over half of all the World’s

Fair statues were her, 1915
fairest-of-them-all. Nude she
made news, but when praise

of her curves gave way to
baseless slurs and scandal,
the Exposition Girl was exiled to

the realm of roller skates and lawn mowers.
Then the daughter who’d modeled for
the Mercury Dime’s Miss Liberty drank

bichloride of mercury and tried to die.
Audrey, heedless as moths, was shuttled
from hush to shush, from silent films

to an unmarked grave, fifty years
in an asylum in-between. Meanwhile
her beauty bathes perpetually

in the Pulitzer fountain, her torso
is touted as “Civic Fame” atop
the Manhattan Municipal Building,

while she herself along with her name
dwells only in the domain of rain-
gagged gargoyles, moss growing thickly
                                                   on their tongues.

Jessica Goodfellow