Charlotte Clutterbuck

Charlotte Clutterbuck lives in Canberra and writes essays and poetry. Her collection of poems, Soundings, was published by Five Islands Press in 1997. She won the Romanos the Melodist Prize for religious poetry in 2002 and the David Campbell Prize in 2009.






There were causes:


            we could have

            we should have

            we might have

            we weren’t

            we mustn’t have


and also:


            I did and

            I could be

I was but

            I shouldn’t have been


not to mention:


            he might have

            he wouldn’t

            he was but

he couldn’t


But these facts remain


I am not there


I am here


I will not be there when he hears


I live at the periphery of what used to be central

the Hume Highway is long

my back aches as much as my heart.





this first year

foundations – taking sights

laying out lines


ceremony of first sod

spadefuls of loam

barrowed away for turnips


pickaxe and crow

dislodging old coins

a smashed teapot


the builders’ dogs

faithful or busy, eyeing

each other, settling


rain setting in

overnight, trenches

full of muddy water


thud and shock


juddering rock


burnt and sweaty

shoulders heaving

rubble to surface


hands blistered

bruised and scratched

with limey soil


only in minds’ eyes

Satan flying west    

on judgment door


mermaids on misericords

under baritone bums

sopranos shifting


spirits above

transcept into a spire

that’s yet to be



flat earth


I’ve stepped off the edge of my life

a contortionist’s tangled legs and arms

flailing, the music of the spheres rude

with shock, feathers drifting down

onto flattened vestiges of garden


I twist my neck to see

my crumpled limbs

through other people’s telescopes

unbalancing profit and loss

I knew but did not know the costs

could not preempt these doubts


peremptory love under spring boughs

bring me a cup of tea

kiss my cold shoulders and feet

tell me there’s no rabbit trap

pressing into my skull


let your voice and fingers

keep telling me of the wild place

somewhere in the mountains

where sparks from a twilit

bonfire fly above these jagged slopes