Poems of the Week

A Modena Tomb

by Julia Griffin

after Larkin

“The ‘Lovers of Modena’, a pair of skeletons so called because they were buried hand-in-hand, were both men, researchers have found.”
—The Guardian

Deep in Romagna, two have lain
Say experts, fifteen hundred years.
That’s not unique. What’s special here’s
A feature all can understand:
Though shrunk to bones, the two maintain
The pose of lovers, hand in hand.

They have no faces left to blur
Nor names, those sweethearts under ground;
But lately new research has found
Something surprising: up till then,
We had believed them him and her;
It now it appears they both were men.

So have we understood amiss?
We called it love, but should it be
Two soldiers’ camaraderie?
Were they two brothers? All the powers
Of science teach us only this:
What will survive of us is ours.