Thanks to friends and teammates for your ideas!
When you get your hair pleated, eye-burstingly tight,
your pulse pounding to changing room tunes.
When your shorn nails pant through the warm up,
and you realise the whole game is still to play.
When you nerve and breathe and need to pee the moments
before kick-off, praying the ball won’t come to you,
too scared you’ll drop it. When the first tackle splats
you in the icy mud, and you’re shocked and nearly
too lazy to get up, but your fly-half ships
the ball out, and the winger makes a break,
punts it to the try-line, opposition falling
at her ankles as she scores.
When there’s a knock-on and your pack
prowls to the scrum, growling we’ve got this.
When your hair tie’s slowly coming loose,
fringe creeping over eyes, until
halftime: orange slices, breathing hard,
told off and encouraged and it all begins again.
In the lineout, when codes are shouted to confuse
but the hands holding you up are strong
and certain. Everything goes right. When the ball
smacks your palm, then off to your scrumhalf.
When a girl runs at you, ball in hand, and
you slo-mo see that she’s stepped you a belter –
you land face first in the dirt, mortified,
until your teammate halves them:
you thank fuck for which team you’re on.
When, knackered, you think it must be close
to done, but the ref says that’s us ten minutes in.
When, determined to make up for a missed tackle,
you hit hard, in sync with your teammate,
who shoots you a gumshieldy grin.
When suddenly the game is almost over.
When your team is ruler straight on your own
ten metre line, having slugged a scrappy match –
every single one of you defends your tits off.
The hugs and handshakes, team photos.
When you clack clods of dirt from your boots
before the changing rooms. When your waning
adrenaline brings you to tears on the toilet.
When you peel off a damp bra, listening to Lizzo,
scrubbing at your muddy icy skin in a beautiful
hot shower. When, win or lose, you sing and booze.
When your team’s so close they help you write a poem.