I cannot let the story solidify, said the poet Lemn Sissay on a radio programme yesterday, I don’t want to trot it out. He was talking about his life story, his childhood in care, and, in particular, his finding his mother. He wanted the story, his truth, and his encounter with (and by association ours) to remain alive, fresh and new. It can so easily become off pat, if one retells and retells an experience. How can it be made to resonate with each telling? I learnt much from listening yesterday. A powerful act of attention. There was Sissay and two excellent plays about losing a child, one through being an addict and the other a kind of what if loss in a supermarket.

I want to write about my tautness, my tightness. Mainly in my back. It dominates my day. Can I learn to love it? To know it in an intimate way – so that I can welcome it in – a la Billie Holiday, Good Morning Heartache. So what does it feel like? A rigidity, a hardness of my shoulder and back muscles. My upper back. Thoughts trigger it. Mostly those about my worthlessness, or indecision, or fear. Sometimes the hardness is so strong that I am made breathless by it. By the end of the day I am weary of it. The rigidity had tightened my whole back right down to the lumbar region and my arms are aching. And often there is nausea. It is my battle, my test. Should I approach it differently? All I can do is sit in here each day and work. Work the cloth. See what happens. And wait. Wait for clarity. I think about women sewing. The seeming peace of it. What seethes underneath such self-containment?

By Ellen Bell

Artist and writer currently living in Aberystwyth.