Charlotte Oliver lives in Yorkshire. She's had poetry commissions from the BBC, as well as from Scarborough’s South Cliff Gardens Restoration Project. Her work has appeared in various publications including Dream Catcher, Green Teeth, Ice Floe, Black Bough Poetry, Cape, Spelt and Fevers of the Mind. Charlotte's debut chapbook, How To Be A Dressing Gown, was published by Dreich Chapbooks, and she's currently working on a radio ballad funded by Arts Council England.
How To Be a
Your role is that of a hug
in clothing form,
you must channel the softness of a lullaby
and the gentleness of true love.
And, of course, have big pockets
with a tissue inside.
A valuable source of warmth
you must be a mobile retreat in times of illness, heartbreak,
a good Saturday book after a hard week
or a crisp Christmas morning.
Be always ready,
lurk in unexpected places
(the bathroom floor? the dining room? Monday lunchtime?)
and your greatest gift: the trump card
the un-ignorable siren to the world
and uninvited visitors at the door,
that the wearer is
and no questions can be asked
(but this must only be used in extremis
or its force will fade).
You have the power of an unexpected sponge pudding
but stay humble and keep yourself together –
lose your belt
and you will probably become
But Everything Happens
Like the imperceptible inhalations
of rising bread.
Like bare soil in winter.
Like Mondays in Lockdown
when the earth scrapes round with grief.
Like when I cook dinner, everyday.
Like a feeling you didn’t ask for.
Like a yes or a no.
Like the silence when you ask if they’re okay
and the words in their throat crumple up
like a paper straw sucked too hard
and you can’t straighten it out for them.
I want the belief
of an ant with a giant leaf,
of the Alsatian that escorts its owner down the street,
of a herring gull leaving land behind,
of a wasp.
I don’t remember what it used to be like,
just the clatter of freedom like waves on a pebbled shore,
and eternity’s breath on my bare neck.
I don’t remember how it felt
just the early taste of you – fresh water from a quiet stream.
I don’t remember much
except the view that embraced me from all directions:
a thousand greens,
stitched together with hope.
All poems: How To Be A Dressing Gown (Dreich Chapbooks)