Rachel Long

Rachel Long’s debut collection, My Darling from the Lions (Picador, 2020), is a narrative in three parts, threading experiences of the learning and unlearning of shame, the body, sex, faith, lineage and healing. It was shortlisted for the Forward Prize for Best First Collection in 2020. She founded the Octavia Collective, a poetry collective for Womxn of Colour.

Rachel Long

Photo: Amaal Said

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Poetry at bedtime with Rachel Long

Sat 13 March | 22:00 - 22:15 | FREE | StAnza Online

Poem

Apples

Last night, I missed my train by seconds.
So close that one part of me did catch it
and waved from the window to the other half
still panting on the platform, tits play-doughing
out of a shit bra. I couldn’t sleep for an hour
and a quarter − the exact time between the two
slices of me reaching home, in separate taxis,
each driven by a brother who co-owned the firm. 
Today, I’m assuming the recovery position
in my favourite outfit – a jumper with no knickers,
the perfect hot/cold combo,
like a bowl of baked crumble and ice cream. 
I am magazine educated, so have known for a while
that my body is an apple. Supporting theory:
I bruise so easy I worry it’s leukaemia. 

No, the doctor says, again, it’s just your dark skin.
She recommends scar serum.

When I was bored after service – Mum still counting
the collection then insisting on sweeping from altar to street −
I’d sit in front of a pillar, playing with my brain-Barbie.
She was brown with tattoos and I made her have sex
with a grown man in a toilet cubicle.
I don’t remember her face, or her body.
Nor what I named her. Something beginning with N… 
When the mum of my then-best friend said
her daughter wasn’t allowed to play with me
because I was another N-word ─ meaning
Mum went round in her dressing-gown to slap her silly
with her tongue, then returned to scatter the kitchen
and shred Dad’s
Guardian for not sticking up for us,
for never saying anything ─   

After that I had a sleep-dream
in which I grew a bright green face;
granny-smith hued, high polished.
And even though I was green,
I was The Most Beautiful Woman in the World.
I had the best hair
and even did humanitarian work.
I was interviewed
about both things,
each night, for TV.

Rachel Long

From My Darling From the Lions (Picador, 2020)