Augusto Jandolo: On Excavating an Etruscan Tomb

Augusto Jandolo: On Excavating an Etruscan Tomb

By Tom Sleigh

(posted Wednesday, April 15)

To hear the poet read “Augusto Jandolo,” click here.

“When we lit our torches
My eyes went blind in the cave’s
Cool dark–
                    the damp rock rough against my palms,
I remember how we strained to lift
                                                       the great stone lid: slowly
It rose, stood on end … then fell
Heavily aside, crashing down
                                                  in the smoky,
Turbulent light
So that just for an instant I saw–
It wasn’t a skeleton I saw;
                                           not bones,
But a body, the arms and legs stiffly outstretched–
A young warrior’s flesh still dressed
In armor, with his helmet, spear, shield, and greaves
As though he’d just been laid in the grave:

For just that moment
Inside the sarcophagus I saw the dead live–

                                                                     but then, beneath
The sea-change of our torches,
At the first touch of air, the warrior
Who’d lain there, his body inviolable
For centuries, dissolved–
                                         dissolved, as we looked on,
Into dust …
                  his helmet rolling right, his round shield sagging
Into the void beneath his breastplate, the greaves
Collapsing as his thighs gave way …

                                                            But in the aura
Round our torches a golden powder
Rose up in the glow and seemed to hover.”