Nobody knew that deep within her
there lived a tiny bird.
She felt its wing against her sternum
the tips of its thrumming feathers
on the dull xylophone of her ribs.
Sometimes the fluttering was so fast
she felt as if it was trying to escape
the protection of its bony cage
and she wondered what would happen if it burst out –
where would it fly to and
how would it survive?
The gentle rhythm of pedaling her bike through an – orange Autumn day
seemed to calm it
and it fell asleep entirely when
she rocked her babies close
or listened to his snores in the velvet silence
of the night.
Time passes and my careful choice of tools
(pen, inclination, mood)
is cast aside
replaced by bare hands,
fingernails grow filthy
clawing through layers of life
to deep memories
dead skin cell chrysalids, paper-thin, unused.
Some I smile to view,
others even now are pink raw-nerved, best left until
time has scarred skin over double-thick.
a stretched wide ribbon
of textures, smells and sounds,
now framed and gallery-hung,
I pass by like a visitor,
stand and stare, find details
I’ve never seen before.
I force my gaze through taut surface into frozen moments of happiness and pain,
a surgeon opening my own heart,
and am surprised by how much more I can stand
and how strong I feel to shape them afresh with scoured words
barbed wire tears help me
to better feel the soft warmth of
You May Write Me Down in History
(first line from Maya Angelou’s Still I Rise)
You may write me down in history
and my averageness
will strike a discordant note/clang in the harmony
like a stone in a sieve of sunset lentils,
or the grit in a glowing sea of pearls
they would not be there at all.
You may write me down in history,
a brown crumb of Christmas pudding
in a pile of shiny coins,
immortalised for keeping the house quite clean,
feeding others adequately,
no prize specimen,
so others can shine brighter.
Perhaps if you write me down in history
others destined for the middle
will be glad to see that their lives
and are necessary colours for the spectrum.
They can be satisfied
and not have to chase
Bio: Charlotte Oliver is a writer who lives in Scarborough, Yorkshire. She was the commissioned poet for BBC Radio York’s Make a Difference campaign and her work have been published widely. She has poems upcoming in Cape Magazine’s Bitches Get Stuff Done, Green Teeth’s Yorkshire Anthology, Black Bough’s Winter edition and Ice Floe’s Pandemic Love Anthology.
She tweets at @charlotteolivr