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Rachel Bower
Rachel Bower is a poet and Leverhulme Research Fellow at the University of Leeds. She is the author of a poetry pamphlet, MOON MILK (Valley Press, 2018) and a non-fiction monograph, EPISTOLARITY AND WORLD LITERATURE, 1980-2010 (Palgrave Macmillan, 2017). She is the editor of the VERSE MATTERS anthology (along with Helen Mort, Valley Press, 2017). Her poems have featured in STAND, NEW WELSH READER, THE INTERPRETER'S HOUSE, FRONTIER, POPSHOT MAGAZINE and many other places.

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‘I’m sorry,’ I say, looking straight into the gold flecked eyes, ‘I can’t see another way’ The round eyes blink brightly back I turn on the hot tap above the small white bath, hygienic and functional like everything else in here There’s a red sign above the taps, with a warning about the scorching water Steam rises instantly from the bath, and I move to the toilet to wait I wonder, briefly, if I can hide her in my little room down the corridor But no, she’d be found straight away: they mop the rooms every day Besides, there would be nowhere to hide: bare lino under the single bed, and then there’s just the little lockable set of drawers, pine-veneer desk, plastic chair The walls are painted magnolia: there’s not even wallpaper to hide behind And even if I could squeeze her into one of the drawers, she’d probably suffocate I know they do their best to make it homely in here, but it’s nowhere near Bile rises in my throat when I think of the thick carpets and rugs I left behind Laying as still as I could on the luxury pile, not daring to move, hoping this would make him stop Sometimes it worked, but usually he won: got me moving again, a kick in the soft belly fat, a boiling spoon to the flabby upper arm   I inhale the steam deeply now, looking down at the exceptional pigeon cradled in my palms She’s a stunner, a certain win I feel the quality of her down against my skin, she is oiled all over I gently test the fineness of the bones, the strength of the frame, the vibrating breast muscles, the deep throat Perfect balance She was always my favourite and he knew it He said it wasn’t right to have preferences: that the birds would pick up on it and stop coming home Back then, he was still teaching me: he’d take me to all the shows, even the big one with the starry midnight carpet, crimson drapes and dazzling stage My crushed velvet dress
Homing

Prize Entry

April 2019

Rachel Bower


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