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Allison Funk

Because the visible woman is

Self-Portrait as Anna Morandi

Because the visible woman is

about to vanish I undress her flesh

          and call her back

rib by rib, scapula, tibia,

          knowing how perfect she is

inside where she cannot see.

          Descend, I implore her,

into the heart’s four chambers

          or the vestibule of your inner ear— 

through its intricate labyrinth, hear

          how you hear so clearly,

word for word, pizzicato and bow.

          Clavicle, sacral, I whisper,

notes I want her to savor,

          but she turns and speeds away

like someone fleeing fire

          although I appeal to the rivers

that course through her blood, her brain,

          even her watery bones.

Air, I say in one breath—

          remember the ancient elements:

your earth, your mineral self.

          You’re not naught-nil-none,

though small now as an ovum, pin-little

          through the telescope I’ve become.

Dimming then brightening you are

          the variable star I set my sights on.

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Self-Portrait as Anna Morandi

With her round face, thick neck, and matronly waist
no one would mistake her for The Anatomical Venus
or her sister, The Slashed Beauty,

Clemente Susini’s odalisques also fashioned in colored wax.
In her self-portrait Anna Morandi stares into the distance,
though not to seduce. She looks as she must have

when opening a corpse. Studious. As focused
as when she discovered the six muscles of the eye
that radiate like starfish arms,

letting us glance every which way,
much as our docent does, following us
like a swiveling Kit-Cat Klock

in Bologna’s Museo di Palazzo Poggi.
Don’t touch, she says as we approach the all too lifelike
life-size Morandi cinched into a taffeta dress

with gray lace and festooned sleeves.
You can tell it mattered to her how she looked,
this Signora with pearls circling her neck and wrists,

though she wanted to be remembered
as the Lady Anatomist. Notice how she’s reaching
for the instruments she used to look inside us—

in her likeness, find your own inquiring self,
our guide advises before she leads us
into the next room and the next in the palace.

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Allison Funk was born in Princeton, New Jersey, and grew up in Delaware. She earned her BA in English from Ohio Wesleyan University and MFA in Creative Writing from Columbia University.  Alice James Books published her first collection of poems, Forms of Conversion, in 1986. Living at the Epicenter, her second book, won the 1995 Samuel French Morse Prize as well as the Society of Midland Authors Poetry Prize. Other books include The Knot Garden (Sheep Meadow Press, 2002); The Tumbling Box (C&R Press, 2009); and Wonder Rooms, issued by Free Verse Editions (Parlor Press, 2015).  Her honors include a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, the George Kent Prize from Poetry Magazine, and the Celia B. Wagner Award from the Poetry Society of America.  Her work has appeared widely in journals and anthologies, including Poetry, Paris Review, Shenandoah, Field, Cincinnati Review, Image, Prairie Schooner, The Best American Poetry and When She Named Fire: An Anthology of Contemporary Poetry by American Women. She is a Distinguished Professor of English at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville.

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