“Prose,” Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema, 1879, WikiArt.

Morning of understanding, awareness, of
Age I had become, not for marriage, raising
Children, these, in time, would come. This
Somber morn, I visited City of the Dead,
Household tomb, decades sealed, rows
Of stone-slab afterlife residences, family
Name inscribed, upon heavy lintel, bold
Etruscan letters: “Amandius,”elder father,
Before my birth, long since entering eternal
Life, prayers made to goddess Persipnei.

Father my hand taking, cobblestone walk
We strove, procession of family, greeting
Other visitors, heads bowed in honour,
Respect, we held no high office, here all
Were equal, death final arbiter, life beyond
Teenage years, glowing springtime, eventual
Vine withering, seasons, years, generations
Passing as day and night. All this I felt,
Realized, confronted by stone-sealed
Entrance, visiting family tomb.

Hammer taps by stone masons, pry bars at
Ready, father said of me, “Lydia, one day
This will be my home.” Fear, misgivings
Head rushing, I felt dizzy, lightheaded, what
Horrors awaited therein? By torchlight father
First entered, then his arm, hand for me
Reached, guiding me inside. Lo! I recognized
This place, designed as our living home,
Stone-carved beds, chairs, pets, utensils,
Tools, all sculpted bas relief.

Upon niche beds, ancestral sarcophagi in
Waiting repose, rings, bracelets, bronze cups,
Sword and shield, robes, gowns in time-torn
Tatters, flesh reduced to dust, father allowed
Moments to stone chair sit, saying, “You may
Have one family ring to wear, third you would
Be, gracing family hands.” Ring of amber agate,
My eye caught. Father placed it on right ring
Finger. “Wear this memory and honour of
Our living and eternal families.”

“Roman Offering,” John William Waterhouse, 1891, WikiArt.

Tomb sealed, mindful steps we took home,
Leaving Etruscan City of the Dead, returning
To living ocean-viewing home. Yes, I had
Been touched, moved, visceral connections
Made, I was but one of many daughters,
Sisters, would be child-bearing mothers of
Our merchant family, part of proud heritage
Spanning ancient past, when by hand-carved
Stone blocks, our house was built, solid
Foundations of family, living and dead.

Poem of historical fiction is based on Etruscan tombs.
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