POEM OF THE MONTH – RASH by Tamsin Hopkins


Tamsin Hopkins reading Rash




You   have   a  rash   on your   back.

I  think   I’m  supposed to  tell  you,

but  while  you’re  asleep I   take   a

picture   of   your   skin and  search

through         fifty   common     skin

diseases    and   now   I have     seen

so         many             dermatological

nightmares,     embedded   insects,

worms, infections and   swellings,  

I don’t know     how

to  discuss   any   of this    with you.


I decide I will leave you a series of

post-it notes, pink/ yellow/ green.

It’s     not    strictly     relevant,     my

mother wants me to be a doctor, a

dermatologist could be acceptable,

or   failing   that    I  could   marry   a

doctor, but I told her – I can’t even

stand       thinking         about        the

discussions   we’d    have  at  dinner

every    night.    Or    at      breakfast.   

Those medical eyes.


Going     by    all    the     pictures     I

Googled,   I  think  you   may    have

Colorado  Tick   Fever,  although   I

don’t   suppose    it’s    prevalent    in

Vauxhall. Or  you  are allergic  –  to 

the sheets /  the  washing  powder /

your shirts/ your  X-Box chair.  Or

me.     Possibly,   you’re   regressing,

becoming    the  teenager    I    never

met.  Your  sister  says you had skin

issues    then.   If  I  ever   become   a

dermatologist, if I even befriend or

date    a   skin specialist,      I   will  let

you   know.   A  green post-it  under

your door.






Should   I   preserve   a  clear   image of

myself  in  my  own  mind? Should the

image have a strong outline? Are you

doing this?  Is it important to retain a

memory  of  what  you’ve forgiven for

forgiveness  to work?  Is  it  important

to know who  and what  your  parents

loved,    or    is    it    enough  that    they

existed?  How  important   is  it  to  like

your    lover’s   family?   Why   do  your

friends    never     mention    your     ex?

Would a full veil wreck my hair? Will

the wedding  be  in Jamaica? Will it be

windy? What  kind of rice will  people

throw? Will it stick  in  the  veil?  Will

turtles   come  up   the  beach  to  watch

us? Will  dolphins  frolic  and   leap for

the photos? Is it true that your friends

like   me   better   than   they   like  you?

Have  I  imagined this?  Does having a

titanium plate in  your  face  make you

have   weird    dreams?   Why     doesn’t

your     father    drink? Why  doe   your

brother    drink   so   much?   Can   self-

knowledge ever  be  achieved  without

knowing  your  parents?   Do   orphans

have   it   easier?  If  I  forget  what  you

did,  does  that mean  you are more, or

less  likely  to  do  it  again? Why did it

take you three years to tell your sister

about   me?    Just   asking.  Will  I trust

you to  drive with  children in the car?

Will    the    sides     of    my    face     age




French Glacier


When you said you’d like to see me at two-thirty, I said yes.

When you named the place, I thought you’d look stunning

in all that scenery. I said: yes, yes.


There are two ways here – valley up or peak down.

I’m checking for you in both directions, over my shoulder,

using selfies, so as not to appear obvious.


There’s nobody else here. Except an older couple down to the left,

each holding Ziplock bags containing perfect fondue bread cubes.

Probably rye bread – just the way you like it.


It’s already two-forty-five and if I leave, I might meet you

on the way up and then I’d have to turn around. Are you on the way?

In a distant cable car, zipped up in Parker and mittens?


Yes, I am wearing the wrong clothes. Yes, I didn’t want those boots

or any form of cagoul. You’d think four inches of stiletto would hold

a pirouette in the ice, but what they have here is not what I call ice.


Also, you didn’t say glacier ice would be dirty – pitted and rutted, as if

an army of jeeps passed this way just yesterday. Or trucks full of GIs,

like in the Dirty Dozen, which I’ve seen seven times. Thanks to my father.


Since you’re running late, I’ll probably sit on this boulder and watch

my own breath. I might ask the older couple to give me a photogenic

square of bread. I could hold it between my lips until you get here.







Tamsin Hopkins is studying an MA in Creative Writing at Royal Holloway. In 2020 she won the Aesthetica Award for Poetry. Her poems have recently been published or are forthcoming in ‘Best British and Irish Poets 2019-21, Tears in the Fence, The New Statesman, Finished Creatures, The Alchemy Spoon and a variety of competition anthologies. In 2021 she was longlisted in the National Poetry competition. Her poetry pamphlet Inside the Smile is published by Cinnamon. Her short fiction collection SHORE TO SHORE was shortlisted for the Rubery Award and longlisted for the Edge Hill Prize.

21 July 2021