Bethany Handley


Above the ice, another me inhales

the ocean air. She still believes

that she’s visible, women’s

tongues are an organ and Ophelia

 woke from her watery nap. Since my pain

 grew greedy, another me has been trapped

under ice, sealed in a rock pool

like a foal waiting to be delivered

dripping, like a creature from the deep.

On the ceiling of condensation, I trace

a window so I can watch the sky

warp through the water.

My sunset hair tugs in the current, wrapping

 around anemones before tangling


in my breath. The skin on my fingers begins

to wrinkle as if preparing to scuttle away

like the shell-less hermit crab

who is seeking refuge between my toes.

I call from my rockpool, pushing

 the fish into flight, but only the other

me can catch my words- read me.

I imagine someone hears the sand

grains knock against each other. That they

 smash the ice into cave men’s

flints, plunge their hands into the bitter water,

pull me from this spaceman’s sack.

My tongue’s beached under salt

my words too heavy to float, so

I’m waiting in my rockpool

for someone to stomp on the ice.


In ‘Rockpooling’, I explore the battle to be heard as a young woman living with chronic illness. During the pandemic, the move to a more digitalised word made my work and studies more accessible. However, I didn’t feel that the digitalised world increased the representation of young women with chronic illnesses. Whilst we could communicate virtually with other individuals living with similar experiences, we were not being seen or heard by wider society.  In the poem, I explore the metaphor of the rockpool as a self-contained microcosm where the self with the chronic illness is trapped. Just as with filter bubbles on the internet, the world outside the rockpool would fail to see the world contained in the rockpool as they would see themselves reflected on the surface of the water, missing the narrative voice’s lived experiences below.

In my experience, young women with chronic illnesses are often alienated, stigmatised and not believed. Through art, we can fill the void where our experiences should be represented and call on our readers to empathise and to listen to us. In ‘Rockpooling’, I invite the reader to ‘read me’ and to share in the experience of being disorientated and trapped by a world who doesn’t hear or see you. However, it is not enough to read and see us. We collectively need to ‘stomp on the ice’.


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Twitter- @bethany1handley