Charlotte Ansell

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the poet

Charlotte Ansell left Yorkshire via the North Sea to moor up on the Medway. Her third collection Deluge was a 2019 Poetry Book Society Winter Recommendation, and she’s had poetry in Poetry Review, Mslexia, Now Then, Butcher’s Dog, Prole, Algebra of Owls and various anthologies – most recently These Are The Hands: Poems from the Heart of the NHS. Charlotte received a Royal Society of Literature Literature Matters Award in 2020, and is a member of Malika’s Poetry Kitchen.

the poems

My ‘daughter’ Buys a
They/Them Badge

00:00 / 01:40

       Just because you say so

       All win and all must have prizes?

       Forgive me, I don’t see boy

       not yet, just the you you’ve always been

       somewhere in between, yes,

       halfway through a door I have no key to,

       a warren I cannot tumble down

       I’m far too old to shape shift now,

       despite your insistence it can be done.


       Don’t deny me my need to mourn,

       the only place your given name exists

       is in passwords on my phone

       and the grave you’ve dug

       with your bare hands.


       Your new pronouns

       cram my mouth, get lodged

       behind my tongue

       I don’t expect the binder

       I bought you to always

       hold off the surgeon’s knife

       but forever is a long stretch

       when you’re fifteen,

       and this is not like a decision

       to tattoo the word regret on your arm.


       I watch your carpet get worn

       with your white rabbit circles

       it feels like your absolute conviction

       is the hook you needed

       to hang your pain on

       with only me wondering why this one.


       They are already painting the roses,

       a whole court clamouring for my head

       but they don’t know you, my love

       you can be anything you want

       and I will always be your Mum.

       I just want you to keep

       one more Drink me just in case

       I want you to leave yourself an if.

Mockingbird

Based on the traditional song,

and after Terence Hayes’ A Golden Shovel

00:00 / 01:08

Your gasp prompts a finger to her lips – Hush.

Ever the mimic, kingfisher shade this time, no longer little

all grown as blue dye blush seeps her shoulders, your baby

gone. Hugs are tolerated but far more nopes and don’t

Mum, with rolled eyes, more words less say

in her life; no beak grasping yet still a

claw outstretched, please a familiar word,

she only says Mama’ s -

oftly when she wants something, all you cradled gonna

fly, no more fluffed wings piled in your lap, you can’t buy

back those years, mouth tight to a thumb. You

love her still as fierce as a

swan but she is restless, gobby, mockingbird.

Credo for the Clinic
at the Girls’ School

00:00 / 02:16

Don’t take this home

even if this heaviness is not a shoulder bag

of textbooks you can shrug off,

it will settle in your bones, behind your eyes

when your 9am cries for the mum

who was either drunk or not there,

says she isn’t bothered that she has

a room now with an actual bed,

where no one shouts

she misses hugs, the unpredictability.


Keep your tone neutral,

if tears threaten, hold them back

your empathy must be muted.

Don’t bring home here,

In these corridors, this tiny room

you cannot be mum.

When your 10am says she doesn’t know

Why she feels so sad, after a year

in which her half-brother saw his dad

murdered, a stubbed cigarette life caring

for her disabled mum before she reached fifteen

do not say you understand.


Do not make suggestions that are plainly stupid,

there are those who recommend

pinging a rubber band

instead of taking a razor to a wrist

but this is akin to gritted teeth

in an avalanche. Resist.


Never say it will be OK,

you are here to sit with them in

the tremors and not flinch.

Hold still, no one feels listened to

by a fidget. Never check your watch.

Try to focus through your 10.55’s elaborate lies

It’s not your job to believe her,

nor judge or call her out.

Your 12.15 doesn’t come,

which considering, is no surprise.


Don’t for one minute think

you can rescue any of them –

you are not God.


At lunch, escape to the park for a proper latte

from the mobile van. Head back.


When your 2pm says she doesn’t feel seen,

one of ten kids, beneath the hijab

she has no faith in and tells you

life is pointless, do not contradict.


When the bell goes,

do not take this home.

Do not try this at home.

Publishing credits

All poems: exclusive first publication by iamb

S h a r e

© original authors 2021

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