Bertha (Antoinette Cosway) The Woman in the Attic

Bertha (Antoinette Cosway) The Woman in the Attic (inspired by Jean Rhys’
Wide Sargasso Sea)

My real name Antoinette Cosway
New husband Rochester
Brands me Bertha
My land, house, body
mind (what little remains)
All his

I know who I am
But he calls me Bertha
But she will never be me
I know my real name
I whisper it, trace it
On the window – pane

Once Mistress of all I could see
Acres of land stretched before me
Emancipation came
Freeing the slaves
Trouble as far as the eye could see
Came Knocking
He, Rochester came knocking

Sold off
Shipped off

Off-loaded to his Yorkshire estate
Guarded, like an escaped prisoner.

I hear them say: His wife, pity she’s mad
Beware the mad woman in the attic!
Pity for himself
But ‘tis I should be pitied
Of my very soul

Hot sun, bougainvillea, frangipani
Christophine, my one amie
Stripped away
My only confidante
Now free and faraway
Remember me

Christophine, you taught me well
Watch them
Know them
Then Act

The governesses come and go
He comes and goes
He does not know my strength
He does not know the lengths

To which I will go

Surrender, never.
My warder asleep
The house creaks
Waiting, holding its breath

I will see his face
No more
Hear his voice
No more
Nor will they

The candle casts shadows
The shadows leap
Higher and higher
Voices shouting
I laugh

Myrna Moore

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