Jail Letter

All Saturday I sit viced between Mum’s legs.  

When it’s dark and all my friends are inside she says,  

Finished! like “Ta-dah!” as if anything about this has been quick  

or thrilling. 


The corners of my eyes have been stitched into my hairline.  

All the ‘sheep’s wool’ they love to touch and say eww to at school  

has been harvested into rows at the top of my head;  

black crown or web.  


‘Mum, my scalp burns!’ 

‘Ungrateful! Look at you, beautiful as Winnie Mandela!’ 

I don’t know who this is,  

but it doesn’t sound like someone Ben Clark will fancy. 

from My Darling from the Lions (Picador, 2020/ Tin House, 2021), © Rachel Long 2020, used by permission of the author and the publishers

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Rachel Long is the founder of Octavia Poetry Collective for Womxn of Colour, a ‘fiercely community-minded’ collective formed in direct ...