Tattooed*

*a burlesque poem.


my brother has the words
“this is not for you” tattooed
across the upper left side of his chest.

my first love is immortalized
by a swallow taking flight
on the back of my neck
because i read once that
if you love something,
you set it free.

free, was the last word i would use
to describe the pain that came
from being “single”
after years of being an “us”.

free, is the last word I’d use
to describe the anguish that came
when the floodgates opened
and the tears couldn’t start pouring.

“this is not for you”, is what I say
when people ask about the rocket ship
emblazoned on my wrist. Straight lines
that form a rudimentary shape, ink that bled
into the veins linked to heart.
It wasn’t for you or the myriad rocket ships
you drew across notebooks that I had
long gotten rid of.

I tell them that it’s a reminder
to shoot for the stars
and go, full speed ahead,
to achieve the dreams that others say
are “childish”.

It is.

It is a reminder that you gave me
the chance to be everything I could
when you wouldn’t ask me to stay
and when you couldn’t let me go.

It is a reminder that you
are not the sum total of my dreams
and that heartache is another word
for “going ahead”.

“This is not for you”, and it wasn’t.
It was for me. It was all for me,
and everyday forward
is another tattoo of my past.


burlesque poem is one that treats a serious subject matter as humor. I’m not sure there is anything in the world more serious than heartbreak.

This piece first appeared on Medium, published in Poetry in Form. You can find more of my writing @CharlleyThen

Not Another Love Story…

I never understood Love

I grew up reading of Mr. Darcy’s
and yearned for a love that could withstand a war,
like Snape for Lily, always.

Love was a sonnet, a ballad,
it was the curl of his lashes
throwing shadows upon his cheek as
the morning sun hinted at the day ahead.

But Love never read like a poem.

When Love came, she came as an afterthought —
long after the whiskey had washed away
his amber eyes burning into my soul.

Long after the Absolut truths had left their indelible mark
upon my mind.

Love came to me as I laid awake,
dreaming of remembering.

She whispered that what we had was real,
after I had let him go.
Love came to me in moments of Absolut sadness.
Rubbing at the aches that wanted
,
the longing for longing as I slept, warm,
in arms that circled but never belonged (to him.)

I used to think that Love was an ultimatum.

Love meant being together forever,
as fingers traced body into future baby parts.
Love was a picket fence and a dog,
a goal in the backyard where lazy Sunday barbecues
warred with noises that only children can achieve.
Love was quiet afternoons with a glass of wine
and someone who’d drop a quick kiss
on the top of your head in passing.

But I was wrong. Love wasn’t all of that. I get it now.
Love was wanting all of that
 (with him.)

Being with him was poetry in retrospect —
the night we cooked japanese curry together
with his onion goggles and him writing
“Rocketeer” upon the blackboard I hung
on my living room wall.

It’s hard to romanticize longboards and
tacky board shorts,
and frozen beer talks.

Love came to me in my memories.
In the scribbled margins of my scrapbook
decorated with pictures of his face,
his fingers upon my hips,
the lingering wanting to remember of my words.

It dances in the in-between
when you’re not quite sure of who you’re missing
and if what you had was even real.

Love exists in figments.

The parallels of who I am warring with
who I used to be with who I could be,
eventually
.
Love came to me in a Facebook message,
sent years after we’d ended any form of ending.
It came in a “hey, how have you been?”
that neither was expecting.

The hollow I had come to associate with him faded.
Long after the haunting warmth
and long, long after the lingering I miss you’s.

Love came to me that afternoon,
and she said, yes. What you had was real.
And good lord, was it beautiful.
But, what you’ll have next is better.
You’ve finally understood that Love
is not a singular.
It is not a thing to be acquired or remembered.
It is a choice.
To be all you can or to fade
into reminiscence.

Love, for me, existed at the bottom of a bottle.
Amber colored truths that came with the heady scent
of peat and smoke.

She came in Absolut terror,
at 2am in the mourning when yearning was so strong
and alone was a cardinal sin.

She wrapped her arms around me
as the cold wind blew
tears that couldn’t shed
because Love was finally a subject
that I knew, with certainty.

I never understood Love
when she appeared in books
and saved damsels in distress

but I get her now, after saving myself.


I don’t usually discuss my pieces. I think much of the allure of poetry comes from your own take of a piece. How the stanzas break apart to bleed into your veins. It’s why I write it, and why I love it. It’s why I read it.

Then again, it might just be some innate form of laziness. I don’t edit my pieces. Every piece that goes out is raw. I’ve been told that I should edit more, but somehow, I can’t find it within me to do so.

This piece, for me, is a form of edition. I wrote a piece similar to it for my first Poetry Reading, last year, you can read it here.

These are 2 separate pieces, claiming the same thoughts. They’re both written by me, but by different versions of me. I don’t claim to have grown, but I can claim that my thought processes have changed.

Time has a funny way of doing that. I’m pretty sure that my romantic tendencies (aka rambling writing) will remain. It’s less an ingrained habit and more of a personality trait. More of a writing trait. I’d like to be one of those concise writers, who can paint a universe with a sentence, but I’m not.

If you’re so inclined, please leave a comment. I’d love to read you.

The Colour Red

He said I love you
like he meant it
and at some point,
I believed him.

That point came
a few years too late
but that’s
not really my point.

My point was
that I should have
loved him back
in a way that could
accurately describe
red to a blind man

but red is
the haze that fell
when he left

and all I had were
long runs along
long coasts 

and red is the liquid
that continued pumping
oxygen through my organs
allowing me breath
to experience the emptiness
that lived in the hollow
he punched through
my chest.

Red is the lips
that knew mine

and traced poetry
along skin
in goosebumps
that have never
erupted since.

Red is the smell
of old spice and berry
lip smackers and
onion goggles and
laughter on a warm couch
in a cold room.

Red is the day
I realized I was
capable of downing
whiskey from the bottle
and mix
a packet of benadryls
to sleep in a bed
that was empty

and silence my brain
which was not.

Red is the photograph
of us dancing
on the coasts I ran through
trying to leave
and taking with me
grains of Vancouver
in shoes that have since
stayed in China.

Red is the stitch in my side
everytime I run along a lake
that doesn’t have a coast

but flows through a city
that I no longer call home
and 
red is accepting that
I had a love once.

And it was real.


This piece first appeared on Medium, published by Poets Unlimited. If you’d like to read more of my words, you can do so here–> @CharlleyThen

The Moment when People Die

I was 19, when his “hello” changed me.

we spent fragrant afternoons
drenched in sunbeams,
wash of sand rubbing
his heart smooth 

his voice an anchor,
holding me still.

we built a fort
out of beer cans and
pillow talks,
unspoken tomorrows
whispered into skin,

promises that lingered
long after i left.

i found his “hello”, etched
in ink
upon yellowed sheets
of paper where sun had dried
tears, tracking marks
across photographs.

his smile stretched
across the lifetimes,
waves that burned
their icy fingers

into my memories,
i dove, headfirst,
feet first, always first.

never lasts.

i wandered through
the abandoned beaches,
winter waves that beckoned,
pulling me in
with their mesmerizing songs,
crashing, ebbing, whispering.

the cold wind kissed
sunburnt lips

fingers that trailed
through the leftover promises,
igniting icy longing,
sandcastles of forever.

buried in the sheets
in Boston, two words
changed everything.
i was 22 when his “i’m sorry”
broke me.

new hurt that rippled

across lines that criss-
crossed oceans of silence,

years spent ignoring
intensity that never faded.
until the fingers slackened,
unexpectedly.
intensity renewed.

“how are you?”
a mantra that saved
and gave new light.

“i’m great, you?”
a warning,
a longing, verbalized.

“i’m perfect”, an answer
that crushed,
lifetimes of yesterdays

into sand that rubbed
away all insecurities
and past pain,

I was 24 when his “hello” stopped mattering.


This piece first appeared on Medium, published by Poets Unlimited. For more of my poetry and prose, head on down to @CharlleyThen to check them out. If you have a Medium account, please hit the green heart or the follow button.

Much love and Happy 2017!

x Charlotte

Thoughts on my 21 y.o brother

letting go is the easiest thing in the world.

it is holding on that demands
blood and sweat and tears.

it is holding on that demands
survival of the fittest. demands commitment
and communication.

letting go is easy

when you have nothing to lose
and nothing to gain.

letting go is the easiest thing
when you’re 21 and learning
to walk on fledgling legs —
with a dominance that screams,

I am here. I have arrived.

With nothing to hold you back.

The real lessons come later.
When 21 passes
and your bones have splintered
and your muscles are sore.

The real lessons begin
when you learn that

letting go is easy

when there are people to catch you
and buy you out.


This poem first appeared on Medium, published by Poet’s Unlimited. I publish more both poetry and prose far more regularly here.

Fibs*

Life
Comes
Knocking
— Crashing in
When you don’t answer.
Some people just can’t take a hint.


*This form of poetry is called a Fib, based on the Fibonacci sequence, and is usually 1-1-2-3-5-8.

 This piece was first published on Medium, by Poetry-in-Form.

If you’d like to read more of my other poetry and prose, feel free to check out my @CharlleyThen, where I update far more regularly. 

Explorers.

Back home,
where we were told
we could be whoever —
so we chose to run. 
Run away
with me?


This piece was originally published on Medium, by Poetry-in-Form, and is part of a project called Chained: A collaborative Cinquain chain. Click on the link to check out the full project, with all the other stanzas. If you like this piece, and would like to read more of my poetry and/or prose, check them out @CharlleyThen

When You Arrive.

the poetry in motion that sliced
your breathing in half and told you
life was yours for the taking, but fear
arrested you and you fell
dripping with sweat that never left
but left you cold with a sheen
that you couldn’t shake.

the heat that coursed through
your 18 year old vessels, with his weight
decadently pressed at the heels
of what feels good
but never felt enough
and you lay in the empty bed
that once held
both your weights.

the photographs stuck along walls,
pressed on with blu-tack that’s
lost all blue ages ago. You smile,
you think. Wondering.
Who that girl is
and who these people are
because she isn’t you
and you don’t know them.

the words that fail you, stepping off
the plane that brought you
to a city you haven’t seen
more than a handful of times
but call Home because it holds
some semblance of Family
you don’t know and have never felt
connected to in any way.

the cathartic screen, blank with a green
publish button and words that pour
fourth but never capture
what you truly mean because
what’s a feeling really gotta do
with anything, y’knaw wud I mean?
Gnawing at your insides
cause it just don’t feel right

when you arrive back in a place where
you have brief History, but no real empathy
with nothing but sunlight and a suitcase
full of antiquated memories
trying to breach who you are with
who you are now.
The words pause
and you break

lines and stanzas

and rhythms.

out of place. out of step. out of line. out of definitions. out of fear. out of stubbornness. out of reasons to not. out of longing. out of the past. out of here. out of comfort.

outside of you.


This piece first appeared on Medium, published by Poets Unlimited. If you like any of my poems, or would like to check out my other poems and prose, check them out at @CharlleyThen