Second Prize - 2021 Tower Poetry Competition, 'The Key'


15 days in a cage with Charlotte Brontë


Charlotte Brontë was born on the 21st

of April 1816. That made her an Aries,

like me. That made her headstrong.

Note that she was nearly a Taurus.

Make of that what you will.



Charlotte Brontë – like me –

was insecure about her nose. She drew herself

weighed down by it. She was less than

five feet tall, and had little feet

and even littler shoes.



Charlotte Brontë’s house is now a museum.

I have seen her shoes and clothes

stuffed up in a glass case. I have bought her heart

for five pounds in Waterstones and read her,

a dead bird splayed open in one hand.



Charlotte Brontë, short-sighted, lived inside

her head, stepping out sometimes to drink

the watery light of the sun shining through clouds

on the moors. She was not a caged animal;

unlike her sisters, she did not rattle the bars

or bite at passers-by.



Charlotte Brontë wrote a lot

about men with dark hair and darker,

brooding souls. Charlotte Brontë,

like central London, had bad taste in men.

Our astrological compatibility is bad,

but I’d like to put my tongue in her mouth,

show her how it’s done, and find the key

to freedom behind her tonsils.



Charlotte Brontë poured her heart out

in letters. If she could have laid her hands

on their recipient, she would have kissed him,

then strangled him, stepped on his Belgian throat

and left him for dead.



Charlotte Brontë knew how to do the worm.

Sometimes, when it all got too much for her,

she would lie down on the wooden floor

of her father’s parlour and undulate

like an ever-breaking wave.