Three Monkeys Online

A Curious, Alternative Magazine

Opus – a prose poem

By Rebecca Bartlett

Rebecca Bartlett is a prizewinning playwright with contributions to both BBC and RTE Drama schedules. Her works include: Curragh Wrens, The Day Daniel O Donnell Got Married, Remembering Arezzo, Seals at Tawin, and Shalom Belfast. Born in Belfast and a graduate of QUB she moved to Galway in 1978 where she worked as an actress with Druid Theatre Company. She founded Galway Youth Theatre in 1991 and was its Artistic Director for almost five years before moving to Dublin. She still enjoys the demands of writing quality work for young audiences. Rebecca is currently editing a novel and working to finish a new stage play. She is a member of Sapphire Writers Group.

To me alone there came a thought of grief:
A timely utterance gave that thought relief,
And I again am strong.
William Wordsworth.

And so Bella stopped crying;
Stopped waking in the night
Stopped being the person she had been for all of her thirty-seven years years.
Bella became someone else.
The softness inside her hardened.
Sharpened edges of voice, of posture, kept her free of the touch of strangers or even of
those who loved her most. Pockets of emotional emptiness forced her into silence, when
in some other quadrant of her body there were words, syllables, sounds, enunciated,
liquid and lucid for what she felt.
As ‘someone-else’ she hears only echoes and Bella knows to ignore these intimations of

Seasons bring variance, colour and form.
Family rhythms move her back and forth across two decades of deceptive ordinariness.
Bella learns to meditate, to trust that the hollowness that others have to assume, and with
which she is so familiar, can bring her to a place of calm contemplation,
a place of peace.

They call it body-memory.
A tactile reawakening of something long since buried, deep in the psyche.
The image, the face; it is a face that forms and moves unbidden across Bella’s eyesclosed-
vision. Her body suspended in shock unlocks a silent scream, like breath held in a
secret moment that has lasted these twenty years.

How can she know this countenance?
It was a scanned image on a screen.
That was what they showed her, a silhouette.
Silent, no heart beat…still, no movement.
A lost child: twenty-five weeks and then no more.
How can she know those features when after hours of labour she could not look and
never saw her daughter’s face. Yet now she sees, she recognises, the tilt of a smile, the
beauty of a perfectly formed head, the engagement of mother-to-infant eye contact.
This is her daughter and it is from the knowing that comfort seeps,
slowly, slowly soul ward.

Bella cries sometimes,
Wakens sometimes in the night.
She feels the hardness inside her softening, and forgives herself.