August 25, 2017

Poetry Friday--"Seaside Grave: Little Frances"

I spent an afternoon in a graveyard taking pictures for a project a few years back. One gravestone in particular moved me with it's poignancy. The stone was old and worn, without even a last name. It was leaning up against a newer type stone, but I can't be sure the people within the graves were related.

The graveyard was nowhere near the sea, but I took a little poetic license. Overall, I think it's a fairly depressing piece.


© Diane Mayr, all rights reserved.

Text:

A frosty glass bottle
at the edge of the beach
abutting a graveyard.

A victim to time, tides, and
sand, the bottle has been
wiped clean of its identity.

Both the contents, and,
you, Frances, in a nearby
grave, remain a mystery.

We know you existed.
What we don't know
is when and for whom.

Or, if, in your short life,
you tasted sweet bottled
syrups or bitter medicines.

Still, your family chose to
send you through eternity
as their "Little Frances."

Do we need to know more?
No more than we need to
know who filled the bottle.

Jone will be hosting the Round-Up today at Check It Out.

I apologize to all who left a comment here last Friday. Things were crazy and I never sat down long enough to respond to your kind words.

26 comments:

  1. Wow, Diane - beautiful. I love the continued imagery of the bottle throughout. A tiny bottle in the midst of the sea.
    The image on this stone is so tender, too - not a tree, just a little branch or shoot, reaching.

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    1. Yes, the stone, so tiny next to its neighbors, is tender--a nice word to describe it, Robyn!

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  2. This is a sweet remembrance, Diane. My family and I just visited a brother's grave who only lived a day. We had forgotten, but he was born the same day as my grandson, so one can imagine he lives on. I love the way you intertwined the bottle and the worn gravestone together to imagine Little Frances. I've taken students to a nearby cemetery to study the history as near as we can surmise, and in certain times. there are those young children there with parents, too. Thanks for your poem.

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    1. Thanks for sharing your personal story, Linda. Losing a little one must have been hard on the whole family.

      It is heartbreaking to visit a graveyard and find more than one child who died during a short expanse of time. We are so lucky to live during a time when disease can be controlled.

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  3. I enjoy walking through old cemeteries, reading the tombstones and wondering about the world these people lived in, the lives they led. Often the dates on the graves are very sad - children and young women taken far too young. In a funny way, I find cemeteries very comforting, a reminder of how we're all connected, throughout the centuries. It's also such a wonderful reminder of how lucky we are to live in a time where we have medical advances, and how lucky we are to live in a country where we can access them.

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    1. By reading headstones you can generally tell when an epidemic swept through a community. It certainly makes one stop and think.

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  4. It's sad that there is nothing to link Little Francis to a wider family. Precious little soul. Your bottle links were cleverly done - particularly the sweet syrup or bitter medicine.

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    1. I'm sure the link is there, I just missed it.

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  5. Cemeteries are always fascinating to me - though fascinating isn't the word I'm going for really. They are thought provoking, maybe? I find myself trying to connect with their lives. Little Francis would have caught my eye also. Great connections to the bottle, too. Things washed to shore bring about the same curiosity as to their "story".

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    1. Definitely thought provoking. I once went on a guided cemetery tour and was told all sorts of things I would have never seen on my own.

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  6. Like Linda, I've taken students to graveyards to do gravestone rubbings. Often they find children. They calculate the age. These visits evoke emotions, but I also think they help nurture empathy.

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    1. An admirable outing--we could all use a little more empathy.

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  7. I like how you combined the washed-ashore bottle and the mysterious gravestone to create a poem of wondering.

    On the subject of Robert Frost...sorry about the unintended challenge, but I hope you'll come back and tell us what you found out about the original context for such a timely old poem!

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    1. Google books showed me enough to determine that Frost's poem is from 1943. It was fun exercise! (I added a link to the comments on your post.)

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  8. What a beautiful, haunting poem. I find walking through cemeteries so peaceful--maybe it's the quiet or the reminder of our own mortality. One of our favorite field trips for our middle schoolers was to a local cemetery. We combined art (with graverubbings), history (local connections between local people and historic eras), and writing (poetry and epitaphs). The kids always thought it was bizarre until they went--then they loved it.

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    1. Writing epitaphs must have been fun with middle schoolers!

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  9. Enjoyed Kay's comment about how trips to a cemetery fit into the curriculum. I love your curiosity, Diane. In grad school, my husband and I lived in an apartment overlooking a cemetery. I should have been more curious about it, but at the time, I treated it like a very quiet neighbor.

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    1. It depends on the age of the cemetery. The later ones are pretty uninspiring with their sterile uniformity. Perhaps the one next to your apartment was one of those.

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  10. Such a touching poem, Diane. I'm sure Little Frances would be honored to have sparked your creativity.

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    1. Hum...I never considered what Frances might have thought. I suppose erecting a headstone is like publishing a poem-- who knows how someone else is going to interpret it!

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  11. I'm not sure I'd say this is depressing, more that it's poignant. There's such a sense of loss, but also of love. Because really, as you wrote, wasn't the most important thing that she was their cherished "Little Frances"? Like many others wrote, your interweaving of bottle and gravestone is wonderful.

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    1. Thank you Molly! I still think of it as depressing since Frances probably never made it out of infancy, and how sad it that?

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  12. beautiful and sad, Diane...one has to wonder who this little lady was and what tragedy befell her young life.

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    1. Old New England cemeteries sure give the imagination a workout!

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  13. So moving, Diane. I love the old gravestones. And I am trying to be better about responding to comments.

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    1. Responding to comments here, visiting others' blogs and commenting there, and doing it in a timely manner, is always a challenge! Add to that daily living. Why do we continue to blog? ;-)

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