Prom Notes | Rachel Long | Granta

Prom Notes

Rachel Long

The velvet rope we would chicken-limbo under
Hey you two, that’s VIP!
Girls, girls, girls
our hands clamp
the back of our dresses down
the way our tongues could hold contraband;
gum, a cherry drop,
the morning-after pill
We shimmy under and into –

The white balloon of waiting

boobs about to blow

double lessons swelling

the crush calling


Those all-American high-school corridors,
rendered here, in marshiest south-east London.
Waxed blonde pine; new girl limbs
and locker-flanked – not a love note inside.
Not a bad word from a bully either. No
I know what you did last summer
just yesterday’s banana
rotting gently in the corner.

And the French-fry sunlight pouring in
through the double doors, the forbidden outside.

Stack the chairs neatly, 9B! I said Neatly!
Leaning tower of lapis. Stacks on stacks on stacks,
bums and laps, lean-back-straddle.

She’s holding her breath
because his hand’s on her corsaged shoulder

Till uni do us part.

Swear Down/I Promise

I’ll remember your full name
and where it came in the register
for the rest of my life.

The straightening
till the irons smoked
and screeched
and the whole top deck
of the 401 sang
of the burning.

The turkey-twizzlering
till the wand smoked
and shrieked
and the hair extensions
at the almost-root

Rachel Long

Rachel Long’s debut collection, My Darling from the Lions, was shortlisted for the Forward Prize for Best First Collection and the Costa Poetry Award. She is the founder of the Octavia Poetry Collective for women of colour.

Photograph © Amaal Said

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