Child Protection

Once, everything felt like threat.

Only my body


could keep yours alive.

We’d get up to check your breathing:


it was shallow and warm

on my cheek.


The whole world swam

in its tide.


I gazed into the dark

where no monsters were;


built fences to keep you



put the matches

up on the highest shelf.


I took on the wolf

with my own weak teeth



will you not be my child,


would I not hold you,

wrap you in blankets of stars,


sweep stones from your path

so you won’t fall.


I will hold your hand by habit

on the road.
and you ask would I die for you –

a thousand times over
but the fences are growing smaller

and you should climb them.
I am giving you the matches.

Now make fire.



Clare Shaw, Poet in Residence

Clare Shaw,
Poet in Residence

Clare Shaw is an educationalist and a writer. Her work is explicitly grounded in academic and professional knowledge, and also in her own experiences of self-injury and using mental health services. She is the author of “Otis Doesn’t Scratch (PCCS 2015); co-editor of “Our Encounters with Self-injury” (PCCS 2013); and has published numerous articles and book chapters.  Clare is also a Royal Literary Fellow at the University of Huddersfield. She is “one of Britain’s most dynamic and powerful young poets” (Arvon Foundation), and as such creativity and performance are an important element of her work.


Clare writes about her poetry:

“Part of the alchemy of poetry is not knowing what you’re going to write until it is written. I don’t have a road map for the poetry I’ll write over the coming year. Child protection, abuse and harm are huge topics to address; that’s why poetry is a perfect way to approach them. Once I started writing, I knew that I wanted to begin by deconstructing some of the language we’re all familiar with when we work in this field – by bringing it back to the ordinary and extraordinary experience of caring for a child”.