Four poems by Charlotte Wetton, Michael Marks award-winning poet

2018 Poets in Residence Program

Poet Charlotte Wetton, this year’s winner of the “Michael Marks Award for Poetry Pamphlets” in London, participated in CHS’s Michael Marks Poets in Residence Program for two weeks this past summer. During her stay in Greece, she visited Ancient Olympia, Athens, and Nafplio, where she participated in a number of activities prepared by the CHS.
In Ancient Olympia, as part of the closing ceremony for this year’s IOA-CHS joint symposium, Wetton read the four following poems to a rapt audience:
At work, she forgets
to take herself out the bag,
sits all day in cellophane
and when she assembles her tongue
to explain, she plays back
an answer-phone message.
The postman discovers the body,
she’d gummed a stamp to her forehead
and tried to post herself home.
Seven am, she’s plaiting her guts in the oval mirror,
lacing her organs into whalebone ribs, everything
folded inwards, over and inwards, cinched tight.
As she leaves the house the old thoughts come,
a litany of knots in the rope of her spine.
When you see her in the mornings, do not offer
to unwind those sinews, ratchet back the twisted arteries
in case the force required to heave and haul her straight
bursts her carapace and all the careful layers rupture,
split and shatter on the station platform.
The Archivist’s House
They broke down the door to the archivist’s house,
two policemen and a social worker, and found
his stacks. Lists ran over window-ledges,
skirting boards, between the lines of other lists:
Wanted and Unwanted Gifts, Money Spent and Regretted.
Ductal spooling and spinning of threaded thought,
he’d sweated ink, breath fogged with it
and the notes fattening, continually multiplying:
Useful Objects Found in the Street, New Foods Tasted
meticulously catalogued, references numbered


lists flicker away into

Women Not Spoken To

Unsuccessful Job interviews

each option classified

the next option and the next

on deeper

into sub-categories

secondary indexes

self spread thin between choices
a lacewing smeared in a folio
Film Releases Missed
Unfinished Conversations pigeon holes spill

into white, rustling pages


lists tangle together

thickets of possibles choke up the passage-ways
box files split like fruit skins

spongy and bulging

stacked sheets



into wadded heaps

pressed into mulch

only rat-runs between essential rooms now
thumbs and heels grease-soften the paper

moulding the lists

to a muffled cocoon

the kernel of the man who husked himself
the fusty smell of his paper skins
the slow stifling heat
the weight.
The Night Watch
I will the singing birds from the sky,
hushing them into the duvet, smother
chattering thoughts in feather thick air.
Sticky tongue, dry throat.
The second hand beats on my skull
pebble-eyed on the hot pillow,
a seasick man-o-war
on a pitching battle ground.
As furniture re-forms in the blue
I give up on the sand-trickled hours,
stop counting breaths, pulse,
but still each neon-green heartbeat
is drawing in the dawn,
the clunking of milkman and postman.
All of the poems are included in I Refuse to Turn into a Hatstand (Calder Valley Poetry, 2017).