My sister tans in the northern hemisphere.
It’s hard to know what might have been erased
with the paleness of her skin,
what makes up this patina that’s replaced it.
Her anaemic-marble cheeks spilt with warm
Bordeaux. The blood of every lacquered Madonna.
Giotto, Bartolo, da Vinci, Michelangelo, Titian,
Fra Angelico, Raphael, Parmigianino…
There is a new oldness in her smile – borrowed shine.
She’s seen the great cities from above.
Terracotta tiled housetops spinning hazy with heat.
Tidy kaleidoscope of boulevards. Brown river, big Ben.
And below. 500 stumble-down steps nicked
in the crook of a cliff. Leading to a world made entirely
of flat black pebbles, green water and freckled
fish unflustered in the sun.
The vampiric depths of the catacombs, inverse city.
The slick of midnight snow in Montmartre.
Spring-green slam of absinthe.
History without modesty, beyond beauty.
Her old quietness has become contemplation.
The sky making space around her, Vermeer-big, dense
with every colour that makes up the grey
of eyes that used to be