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The Road is LongCharlie Sanderson

Charlie Sanderson
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The winning entry in our flash fiction competition, ‘The Road is Long’, weaves threads of grief, resilience and hope into a haunting piece of poetic prose. The judges unanimously agreed it deserved to win, and we hope you are equally moved and inspired by it. Charlie is a voice artist and writer living in the woods with a neurotic Labrador and a toddler. She has journaled from childhood and writes poetry and creative nonfiction with the hope to instil a bit of hope and love in hard times. Her story is inspired by her own experiences of pregnancy loss and motherhood, her Qi Gong and energy practices and the climate emergency. She told us: ‘We need to shift how we talk and feel about climate change; when we focus only on the things going wrong and this idea that it is the end of the world, it doesn’t help anyone, it just creates overwhelm and fatigue. I read a poem recently by Cleo Wade where her vibe for life’s hard times was basically to hold out each of your hands, one holding fear, the other love. In this way we can find a way forward, and I hope that the piece I wrote helps to show that. I feel scared all the time but I also feel so much love and that anything is possible if we can set our hearts to it; as storytellers we must make writing that inspires the power of choosing love over fear, possibility over despair.’


If my body were the blackened earth, all the amniotic fluid in my womb the ocean where the children rested, grew, swam suspended, drowned or rose upended as sharp stars in the wide-open skies. If that is this, then the one sun that chose to live, rising from my crust cut abyss, abdomen, earthquake like, a scalpel blinking in the hand of the man who sliced him out. That son rose as bright as a ball of fire.

They say these days you should not have a child. But who will carry on the good fight when there are none of us left?

Who will shoulder lanterns swooning rich with love and hold the masses in the palms of their kindness?

Who will take all the goodness of this earth and make it even better? Even. More. Good.

There were five children all together. The other four died. It was a long road to the sun.

Body of mine a poisoned river to the first. All that snow that he could only ever grow cold into. Oceans of rebirth for the second, feeling the weighty resurgence of this earth, how far wrong we had all gone, too hard, too heavy to hold on. The third was a ball of cells, a glass of wine, an ocean of badly timed remorse, silently slipping away into our night of dread, our inability to see the possibilities ahead. My poor love, the fourth, who I was so sure would live, who formed a whole tiny body with everything to give but the tattoo of her heartbeat.

How could we forgive ourselves? How could we go on? You ask.

The road is long. The tortoise slow. And the hare way too fast.

At the end of every story there is another beginning and each time a new word breathes life, there is hope as bright and as certain as my son.

As real and as good and as kind and as filled with love as is his laughter, in his soft cotton fresh, snot-streaked cheeks.

This road is long, and we were made to walk it. And after I am gone, he will be magnificent. You all will. You will all be the possibilities, that we dared to believe. To breath our life into. To grow organs and skin and bone and blood and every single cell of love from thin air.

I have five children. Five hearts that beat, one in my chest bellow my right breast, one in the palms of each hand, one in the springs of each of my feet.

The road is long, for a mother, for a teller. We walk together gentle, fierce, hope slung heavy, light across our shoulders, in all weathers. Until one day we rise, with the stars, to watch all that was ours grow a world that is complete of the brightest type of goodness that we once dared to dream.


Charlie Sanderson is a voice artist and writer living in the woods with a neurotic labrador and a toddler. She has journalled from childhood and writes poetry and creative nonfiction with the aim of bringing a bit of hope and love in hard times.

She writes: “The Road is Long is inspired by my own experiences of pregnancy loss and motherhood, my Qi Gong and energy practices and the current climate crisis we are all facing.”

Find Charlie on Instagram @countrylassactress and @charliesandero for X

@Char-RaMumessofPower Char-RaMumessofPower