The Male Gaze

He looks weak as a girl, a tourist,
American and middle-aged, says loudly
to his wife and indeed Donatello’s young David
wearing only knee-high boots and hat
resembles more a coquette
than warrior. He stands lightly
one unmuscled arm resting
on slim hips, the other seems incapable
of lifting the enormous sword
that hangs by his side. His hair
falls in ringlets beneath the hat
which is encircled with flowers.
His belly is as round as a child’s.
Even you could take him, the man
tells his daughter, ten
or eleven, as she pushes her glasses
back on her nose to gaze
upward. She and I peer
into David’s face and his eyes
stare straight into ours.
This David, Donatello tells us, is
more woman than man
but only because this David knows
we’re looking. He knows
that even as he walks across fields
toward his Goliath, as he weeps
over what will surely be
many losses, we’re watching him—
he’s so pretty, the girl says—
and, like a woman, he watches
himself too. Like a woman,
the worst I could tell her—
you, lovely girl, will be even prettier.




Sarah Wetzel is the author of River Electric with Light, which won the AROHO Poetry Publication Prize (published 2015) and Bathsheba Transatlantic, which won the Philip Levine Prize for Poetry (published 2010). Traveling between Manhattan, Rome, and Tel Aviv, Sarah also teaches creative writing at The American University of Rome.
You can read more of her work at



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