Hetty’s Room at Hellens Manor – Rebecca Gethin

Hetty’s Room at Hellens Manor

It is a part of virtue to abstain from what we love if it should prove our bane. Hetty Walwyn,
18th century

She was locked in the room
……..a) because she’d run away with a lowly man
………….and no one would ask for her hand.
……..b) because a woman who defied convention
………….should be given shelter but not their freedom.
……..c) because she was deranged with grief and no one had a better idea.

It began with
…………..a) the click of the key in the lock.
…………..b) the gardener thudding a wheelbarrow.
……………….with a squeaky wheel over the cobbles.
…………..c) a terrible row where the parents
……………….couldn’t agree and both thought they’d let her out.

She didn’t know
…………….a) lock-up would last a lifetime.
…………….b) no-one would come even when she rang the bell.
…………….c) if she could have a small fire to warm the room.

She could see
…………..a) a small yard where a robin and a wren sang.
…………..b) the comings and goings of kitchen staff,
……………….tops of heads with bonnets or hats.
…………..c) smoke from chimneys.

Her cell contained
…………..a) a bed, a table and a bell rope.
…………..b) a cupboard to hold her nothings.
…………..c) a roomful of air.

She scratched the sentence on the window
……………a) because no-one listened to her beating on the door.
……………b) to show she was sorry but questioned the meaning of virtue.
……………c) to leave something of herself behind.

Downstairs, guests sometimes heard
……………a) footsteps going back and forth on the wooden boards.
……………b) sounds of crying or screaming and a tolling bell.
……………c) the scratch of her diamond ring across panes of glass,
………………..etching the word she hoped
……………….might release her: Bane, bane, bane.

Note: After an elopement Hetty Walwyn was locked in a room at Hellens Manor at Much Marcle for 30 years. With thanks to Regi Claire for the idea of the form

Rebecca Gethin has written 6 poetry publications. She has been a Hawthornden Fellow and a Poetry School tutor.  Palewell Press published Vanishings in 2020 and Marble recently published Fathom.  She blogs sporadically at www.rebeccagethin.wordpress.com.

Avocets – Rebecca Gethin

Avocets
 
Like dance notation writing itself
across blank sheets of mud
they run and walk, pause
and move on, swishing
their upturned beaks from side to side
through shallows and deeps,
each stilt-thin elegance
a twosome in counterpoint,
before the corps de ballet takes flight
from the stage of tides
their wings patterning
a choreography of air.

 

Rebecca Gethin has written 5 poetry publications and has been a Hawthornden Fellow and a Poetry School tutor. Messages was a winner in the first Coast to Coast to Coast pamphlet competition.  Vanishings from Palewell Press and a chapbook called Fathom from Marble are forthcoming in 2020.

What the shaman’s child asked the anthropologist – Rebecca Gethin

What the shaman’s child asked the anthropologist

In your country do you have death?
Or is it only here
that the ones we belong with
become sick-spirited, then lifeless
and once they are planted
are never seen again
but talk to us through my father’s mouth?
We know who is speaking
because their voice sounds the same
the words, the tone,
telling us what to do.
Do you have death like ours –
where you can talk to them
and hear them but never feel their warmth.
Do you have need of healing plants
and are there python and leopard spirits
along the paths. You don’t seem to see them,
do you?

 

Rebecca Gethin has written 5 poetry publications and is a Hawthornden Fellow. Messages was a winner in the Coast to Coast to Coast pamphlet competition.  Vanishings is forthcoming from Palewell Press and she will run a short course for Poetry School.

Waiting outside the gynae-oncology ward during the Olympics – Rebecca Gethin

Waiting outside the gynae-oncology ward during the Olympics

In Rio, it’s women’s beach volleyball. Beside me,
a woman is wearing a gown and white compression socks.

The athletes in Rio have tiny shorts and bikini tops.
We nod to one another. A man is glued to the women

in Rio as if interested in who wins and loses.
He’s here because I’m scared, she mutters.

We flick through our mobiles – no signal. In Rio,
bodies are lithe, feet and toes bare on the sand. Upstairs

they’re in scrubs while we stare at the match in Rio
without any understanding of the rules.

 

Rebecca Gethin:  All the Time in the World (Cinnamon Press) and A Sprig of Rowan (Three Drops Press) were both published in 2017. An earlier collection and two novels were published by Cinnamon.  She runs the Poetry School’s monthly seminars in Plymouth, has been a Hawthornden Fellow and her website is www.rebeccagethin.wordpress.com