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.

# # #

Skye Wilson is a glittery, rugby-playing feminist from Scotland. She has been labeled a “jock” (in both the athletic and Scottish sense), but still screams when she gets tackled hard. Skye has just finished her MSc in Creative Writing at Edinburgh University. Her poetry is concerned with womanhood, belonging, and the body. Find more of Skye’s poetry, and a rugby blog, at skye-wilson.com.