Rachel Playforth is a Lewes-based librarian, editor and writer. Her poetry has been published by the Frogmore Press as well as in various anthologies.


Such small hands
the cannula pins you down
alien weight on a wrist
slipping its plastic tag.
Twice you’ve been under
travelling solo
to that place beyond strip-light
thin sheets, lab smell.
Voyager, pilot, your tiny craft
in orbit round yourself.

First time back
you’re screaming, black and blue
and clamped tight shut;
we hardly notice
your face made new.
Second time
a frequent flier
you wake and smile
but will not sleep again for weeks
or so it feels.

Four years later
in feverish nights
you find my bed
and press against me
lip to lip
until we drift together
to the place each found alone
and dream again the dream
that binds us
like a stitch.
On not being horsey

The glamour of gallop
and mane shone to silk
by hours of brushing,
the sniffed high of leather,
hot breath in the ear,
the code of tack,
all passed me by.
No Pony Club or Pullein-Thompson,
no saving up to own a share
in exchange for weekends shovelling shit,
no curry combs or dandy brushes,
no fevered National Velvet dreams.

How to explain to girls
all flushed from wishing
on stars and blazes, stories
where they rode away
forever, wind in hair,
that all I needed was a quiet life
indoors, if possible, with no manure;
that I couldn’t tell a chestnut
from a palamino,
that 16 hands gave me vertigo,
and that I didn’t want escape
but wanted home.
On not smoking

Lost in exams –
my metaphysical poets, your Chaucer –
we pace, post-morteming facts forgotten,
chances missed.
We’ve commandeered your boyfriend’s flat,
his books, his laptop. He’s older,
drinks wine with a name, affects cigars
and worships you. It’s handy;
you keep your Silk Cut here. Another pack
is hidden in the library
for those rough all-nighters.

I have a panic attack over Marvell,
am lying on the carpet sniffling,
wild-eyed, when it happens –
my cigarette.
It’s the one you’re smoking,
damp from your mouth,
as urgent as the kiss of life
and then like bad sex, bad sushi, all
those other things you never want to do again.
I stagger to the window, sick
but yes, I’m calmer.
You smile a victor’s smile,
light up again.
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