“The Wrong Grave” — Kelly Link

Kelly Link is a short fiction specialist whose stories have been collected in three volumes: Stranger Things Happen, Magic for Beginners, and Pretty Monsters. Her stories have appeared in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, Realms of Fantasy, Asimov’s Science Fiction, Conjunctions, and in anthologies such as The Dark, The Faery Reel, and Best American Short Stories. With her husband, Gavin J. Grant, Link runs Small Beer Press and edits the ’zine Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet. Her fiction has earned her an NEA Literature Fellowship and won a variety of awards, including the Hugo, Nebula, World Fantasy, Stoker, Tiptree, and Locus awards.

This story is about a heartbroken young man who buries the only copies of some of his poems in the grave of a young woman he loves. The Pre-Raphaelite poet and painter Dante Gabriel Rossetti did exactly the same thing in real life after his wife Elizabeth Siddal, who had modeled for many of his paintings, died from an overdose of laudanum. And as in this story, Rossetti later regretted his dramatic, romantic gesture and had his wife’s grave exhumed so that he could retrieve his poems, which were then published in 1870. The Pre-Raphaelites were dedicated to restoring to art the classical values of pose, color, and composition, which they felt had been denuded by the stuffy influence of art academies. (Rossetti’s sister Christina is also famous for her long poem Goblin Market, which has influenced generations of fantasy authors.) In later years Dante Rossetti became obsessed with exotic animals, especially wombats—he finally managed to acquire one, which he would have join him for supper. His parties were also enlivened by his pet toucan, which he would dress in a cowboy hat and then have ride his llama around the dinner table. Pretty strange. Though at least when Rossetti dug up his poetry he was confident that he had the right grave.

The protagonist in our next tale is not so fortunate. And if you thought the life of Dante Gabriel Rossetti was full of strangeness, you ain’t seen nothing yet.