Beauty Beyond the Grave

The shadow of laudanum
no longer stained her skin,
in life and death her beauty spilled
luminous, and green-blue eyes belied
disease that once coiled within.
Her glorious red hair had grown
beyond eternal sleep,
entangled in it, Rossetti’s book of poetry,
penetrated by a single worm
where damp and mould had seeped.
Seven long years her body lay
in the deep night of the grave,
asleep at first, perhaps,
or one of Highgate Cemetery’s undead;
exhumation revealed
that it had not decomposed,
or even the words of love
Rossetti laid beside her head,
and Lizzie’s dignity and sweetness
survived Ophelia’s curse
in paintings and poetry,
the eternal muse.

Kim M. Russell, 31st October 2019

Image result for millais ophelia painting

My response to Poets United: Midweek Motif ~ A Million Years Howl When Voices Whisper Among the Trees

This midweek Sanaa’s motif has a Halloween hue. She refers to All Hallows Eve, a holiday celebrated in several countries on 31st October, and to The Day of the Dead, ‘Dias de los Muetros’, which is celebrated in central and southern Mexico on 1st November; both celebrate death and rebirth.

Sanaa has shared quotes from Hesse and Proust, as well as poems by Edna St. Vincent Millay, Vanessa Angelica Villarreal and Louise Glück. She invites us to choose one of two options to inspire us to write poetry. I’ve chosen to write a poem inspired by the exhumation of the artist, poet and model Elizabeth Siddal, who died at the age of thirty-two, only two years after her marriage to the poet Dante Gabriel Rossetti. She is best known as Millais’ Ophelia.

55 thoughts on “Beauty Beyond the Grave

    1. Thank you for reading and commenting. I’ve looked on Amazon and they only have the audio book, so I’m going to check it out at the library. Thanks for pointing me in its direction.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. This is beautifully haunting, Kim! ❤️ I especially like; “Her glorious red hair had grown beyond eternal sleep, entangled in it, Rossetti’s book of poetry, penetrated by a single worm where damp and mould had seeped.” Thank you so much for writing to the prompt 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Beautifully macabre. I love the unhurried pace of this even as you describe an unsettling event like exhuming a grave. Ideal for this time of year.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Oh Kim, your poem is “Beauty Beyond the Grave” in itself. I wish we had visited Highgate Cemetery, of all the times we spent/lived in London the only cemetery we would visit was St. John’s Church Cemetery. And that was because there was a nice children’s park nearby to take our granddaughter. If we go back we will see it and some of the other of the ‘Seven London City Cemeteries’. We’ve literally been to all parts of the city, Camden probably the most.
    Also I learned a new word, “laudanum”. That was probably the form that Charles Dickens used for his Opium intake.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I could say “ditto” to my earlier comment on your first entry, as revealing your insight solo skillfully.. But I did not see her in the grave, rather I found her laying in the grass, possibly just waking up from a little nap, her hand raised checking to see if it actually was a sprinkle she had felt. 🙂


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.