Beloved Daughter

I watched you criss-cross, curiously, cautiously
our graves, dark spaces between footsteps
the quick and the dead on a churchyard’s
chessboard. What drew you to shadows
on such a summery day in May? After all
we all belong to last century and long before.
Your hand sometimes brushed the stones,
feeling moss, a broken edge, old ivy trails gone brown.
Under the rookery you found two full-fledged lives
still as the millpond. Checked if they were warm
and then across you came, to the boundary wall
to stop by me:

Ada Stenton
The Dearly Beloved Daughter Of
John & Sarah Ann Beet
who died December 11th 1896
aged 28 years
Also John Beet who passed away
June 3rd 1909 aged 79 years
and Sarah Ann Beet, wife of the above
who passed away March 10th 1915
aged 79 years

It was your name; those dual sounds
so clear and bold that could be rolled
into poetry. And the headstone’s floral scroll
too drew my imaginings, till you appeared
like a photograph, slowly, surely,
out of the dark room.

Restive all of 28 years, did you find rest in peace
pressed beneath parents, interred before them
the firstborn Adam never conceived? They made
you as ornament instead, after the Hebrew
adorned with dark brown hair, hung loose
hiding the birthmark that marked you out,
a wanderer like Cain, sketchpad and verse
to hand. Woolgathering a wayward way
on the arms of artists and a Sergeant Stenton
kept childless then widowed by the Duke.
I wonder if you died poorer, paradoxically
perhaps of a Yorkshire woolsorter’s disorder?
Or of a broken heart, of shame?
Certainly a prodigal brought back to abide
eternally, as dearly beloved daughter.

– Ada from the Hebrew Adah. עָדָה, meaning adornment or ornament. The first female name in Genesis after Eve. Adam is first man.
– The Duke of Wellington’s (West Riding) Regiment – South Yorkshire.
– Woolgathering – To engage in fanciful daydreaming
– Woolsorter’s disease is anthrax from contact with the raw hides of infected animals including alpaca, camel and sheep.

For my Poetics prompt, we are reconstituting a deceased person, one that is unknown to us, neither family nor famous. By way of poetic resurrection, we bring them Back to Life

41 thoughts on “Beloved Daughter

  1. I agree that Ada Stenton is a poetic name, Laura, ‘dual sounds so clear and bold that could be rolled into poetry’ – that’s lovely. I love the way that you have written from two perspectives, as Ada, The dead fledglings is a poignant touch. I also like that you have included the inscription, but how sad that she died at twenty-eight and her parents lived on.

  2. What to say, this is so powerfully beautiful and at the same time so very sad. The resurrection and the life you have brought to bare here moves the heart. Thanks for being so wonderfully observant and thoughtful.

  3. I love the perspective of a daughter dying at such an age with both her parents outliving her and how much you draw from the name itself. Ada is not a common name these days but I think my great aunt was named Ada.

    and of course, as an engineer, I do know about Ada Lovelace, Lord Byron’s daughter who today is seen as the first programmer.

    1. Ada’s age contrasts so starkly with that of her parents, it almost begs for her story to be told.

      p.s a popular name then and coming back now apparently.
      p.p.s. Ada Lovelace – daughter of Byron and friend of Babbage – brilliant woman

  4. I wonder what her story was? You touch on so much history, so lightly. This is a lovely piece – I always enjoy the flow of your poems.

  5. An excellent piece, with gentle shifting voices and POVs, tender references, and the ability to bring Miss Ada to life without macabre or morbid touches.

  6. kaykuala

    To be accorded a mention but not knowing them is quite a good way of creating a connection. It does well as a starter of creative thinking. Thanks Laura!


  7. I love your imagery of the cemetery as the churchyard’s chessboard!
    I guess you are next on the list!! Scary thought.

    1. the chessboard imagery came in a flash!
      p.s. there is no natural order to these things as Ada proved but nothing to be scared of – its the next adventure

  8. oooh I do like your speculation about how she died, why she was with her parents rather than her own husband …. nice one.

  9. A child that dies before their parents is a gaping hole of grief.
    Names are so evocative. I like that you included both prologue and afterword. (K)

  10. You could put this in any poetry anthology alongside the canon and no one would bat an eye. Just a lovely, brilliant write.

Comments are closed.