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Aviya Kushner reads her poem, “The First Time”.


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Hi, I'm Aviya Kushner and I'll be reading a poem called "The First Time" from my chapbook Eve and All the Wrong Men and this poem happened because of my lifelong obsession with visual art.  I have this intense relationship with some paintings and when I was in college, I made this long trip to see Venus of Urbino and then I went back many years later and this is a poem about how I had changed in the intervening years and the painting, of course, had not.  

The First Time

I first heard of Venus of Urbino
when I was eighteen,
half a life ago, I calculate, to my shock,
she was a slide in a dark classroom,
as a professor in a mustard jacket
with a French accent, went on and on--

She's just as she was then, 
just as she was,
when, at nineteen, I spent nineteen
cramped hours on an overnight train
to come see her,
soft belly, hand chastely
on crotch, a goddess
of flawless skin 
and unaroused nipples
clutching a flower and looking
at us, as if to say,
I am lovely, I am familiar,

So serenely does she think--
I will outlast you.