i) Magnani

Rome began with a she-wolf –
Light my cigarette, hold my espresso –
I’ll show you how to begin –

ii) Freud

I thought of a child with no place
in its mother’s heart

I remembered dressing in dirndl
leaning back against bark

as if I belonged in that forest
I did not

I thought of a country’s heart
no child within it

iii) Pavlova

All the talk is of swans swans
I watch them circle the lake
My eyes are black swans
My feet are red beaks
in pain. The bill of a swan
connects to its skull, bleeds,
feels pain. Swans swans
I punish them with rough
pink stitches – my feet swans –
shaped like kisses

iv) Waser

I paint a portrait
of my master
as myself
with a moustache

It suits me
The way a crow
suits the leafless rowan

Its red berries
as first blood

v) of Austria

My uncle husband visits me three times a day
My arms are painted into red sleeves
that drip like venison steaks on a marble platter
I don’t know    how to dress and undress myself
Three times a day I consider these carvings
of baby-faced angels on my ceiling
They don’t have bodies either
I am read all over

My special talent is standing very very still
during long hours of jest
hand in my own hand

vi) Komnene

 my first screams echo
off walls of porphyry
I was born in the purple

twelve thousand snails
boiled alive to dye
my hem       I am pen
and ink and intellect

        my tears are violets
I am unashamed     I own
my own history
my palms are stained

vii) Saint

I am
a cerulean vein
in a grandmother’s wrist

I exist
in these relics:
ossified thyroid
silver tooth

A scrap
of celestial

viii) Perenna

This island is a rat-trap
I fuck Mars
I bake cakes for soldiers
I am many terracotta lamps dug up by archaeologists
who find
my mouth open       my *other* open
I am sweet eternally
when they turn their backs to dig again –
I escape on river legs

Anna Kisby