Alice’s Grave

Marked only by a rusted cross of curlicues
among rows of lichen-covered stones,
your final resting place has churchyard hues,
this peaceful housing of your crumbled bones.
I know your name, Alice, when you were born
and the date of your last breath. Not a trace
of family, no husband or child left to mourn.
I wonder who you were, the shape of your face,
how bright your smile, the colour of your eyes.
who you loved and who loved you in return.
But from this rusted cross, I can only surmise,
Alice, that you lived and died alone.

Kim M. Russell, 9th June 2020

Alice's Grave

My response to dVerse Poets Pub Poetics: Back to Life

Laura is back to host Poetics this Tuesday, and it seems we have something in common besides writing: churchyards and cemeteries. To get us in the mood, she has shared lines from Elizabeth Bartlett’s ‘Drop me off at the Cemetery’, Leslies Norris’s ‘Elegy for an old Man found Dead on a Hill’, and Longfellow’s ‘In the Churchyard at Cambridge’, as well as making reference to Dylan Thomas’s Under Milk Wood, in which Captain Cat converses with his dead companions.

For this prompt we must rely totally on our imagination to poetically resurrect a deceased person, that must be unknown to us. Laura says we can choose a character from the Norris or Longfellow poem, or one of Captain Cat’s old sea salts. We could find a similar poem that introduces a deceased character and fill in the details; or pick a name from a headstone in any churchyard or cemetery.

I have resurrected and rewritten a poem from 2016, written after a visit to our local churchyard.

43 thoughts on “Alice’s Grave

    1. Thank you, Ali. When I found that grave in the local churchyard, with very little information in the inscription, I wondered who had organised her funeral and how many mourners she had, as she seemed to me to be quite alone in death and in life.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. I think this is a lovely grave, and I actually think that the beautiful cross was set up by someone very attached to her. I imagine a childless aunt surrounded by nephews when at last she died…

    Check out this iron cross from a cemetery in Sweden.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. It is a beautiful cross, and I would like to think that someone chose it for her with great care and love. Perhaps she had a husband or a sweetheart, but he is buried somewhere else, maybe in a foreign cemetery like your Norwegian navvy.


  2. Ah, poor Alice. You’ve reminded me of a radio programme I heard a few weeks ago, about a woman working for the council to arrange funerals for those who die with no family or friends to do it for them. She was so caring, and worked so hard to try to trace families – it was very moving. Alice’s cross stands out in that graveyard of headstones. You write with great tenderness.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Sarah. There are some wonderful people out their who do the kindest things. I’m so glad she was on the radio – more people need to know about this.


  3. I, too, wander cemeteries, snapping photos of the headstones. Your poem sets a perfect tone for the prompt. I favored pioneer cemeteries, and veteran’s graveyards. This was a fascinating prompt to write to.


    1. Hi Frank! I tried three times to comment on your poem, but my words just disappeared into the ether. I like the way you hint at what your subject did, Frank, without giving too much away. You left me with questions to be answered.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. kaykuala

    But from this rusted cross, I can only surmise,
    Alice, that you lived and died alone.

    Tell-tale signs that she is a forgotten soul like many that one sees at the graveyard


    Liked by 1 person

      1. One year I adopted all the untended graves for dia de los muertos.. I have a blog on it. Yes, so sad. I have one triple plot I have tended ever since.. I’ve found out who the people are and every year we clear, clean and deocrate. Now that plot matches the others around it.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. And yet someone thought to give her a pretty memorial. Graveyards I must admit, I find desperately miserable places. So many people like Alice who had (possibly) miserable lives and their memorials somehow draw attention to it. Sad.

    Liked by 1 person

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