The smell of damp earth. The smog hanging heavy over London. Mist, stealing through the gravestones. Footsteps, hurrying through the cemetery, boots echoing on the pathways, voices hushed and urgent.
“Where is it?”
“Here. Just here.”
Also to the memory of
wife of their elder son
Dante Gabriel Rossetti
The hiss of a match. The metallic clatter of a spade, scraping against stone. The thud of soft earth.
“What does he want it for?”
“He needs it. Or his career is over”
“But she’s been gone seven years.”
A girl, in the shadows, her coppery hair the colour of the firelight. She watches, silently, as they uncover her coffin.
You gave me your poetry.
I gave you my heart.
The shovel strikes wood and they stop. One of the men reaches down and wipes the dirt off the lid. He prises the lid off and the men hold their breath.
“Look at her. Look.”
“I see her. I see her. Just take the book. Take it. This is wrong. Take it.”
The man reaches inside the coffin and touches the girl’s hair. It is as vibrant in death as it was in life. It is as red as the fire burning beside them. Her flawless face, perfectly preserved, is cast in marble. The man smoothes her hair back from her face. Reveals the book the poet is desperate to retrieve.
“Hurry man. Hurry.”
Tell him I’m still beautiful.
Tell him I haven’t changed.
Tell him I still love him.
He twists his hand amongst her hair, marvelling at it, feeling the softness. A worm, fat, white and heavy, crawls out of the book and over his knuckles and burrows deep inside the coppery hair that fills the coffin.