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Rachel Carney



the poet

Rachel Carney is a writer, creative writing tutor and academic based in Cardiff. She won the Pre-Raphaelite Society Poetry Competition in 2021 and has been placed highly in several other competitions. Her debut collection Octopus Mind explores themes of perception, creativity and neurodiversity, and was selected as one of The Guardian’s Best Poetry Books of 2023.

the poems

Self-Portrait as
Pieces of a Saint

00:00 / 01:01

you may kiss my jaw in Rome   

or grip my finger bones in Avila   

peer through thick museum glass   at my shrivelled

drooping heart   and see how they transfigured me

at death   into a slice of pious art

my humble flesh spooned out in prayer      


my left arm pinned for you in crystal      

decomposing slowly in its own realm       

I am exhumed again

my skin ripped from its frame

plundered for your touch   your taste   

devoured by your curiosity   your faith in me     

and though you hold the pieces of me in your hands   

I am not here

 I never was


00:00 / 00:56

I want to dis/

entangle the sly hiss 

of dys, to dis/embowel the fraught 

dis/ease of it, as it slips 

in front, so sure, so certain. 

I want to dis/turb its 

dis/avowal, crumple it, 

curtail its sudden fist, flung 

like an abuser’s kiss. 

I want to dis/arm the 

beast of it, dis/dain 

its dis/approval, 

dis/pel its dis/paraging 

taste, its dull 

dis/gust, how it dis/

figures our praxis, 

dis/misses us.

I dis/inter dys –

its cold corpse 


on the kitchen floor,

like an old god.


00:00 / 01:18

I’ve known you, always, 

in the small pearl of your absence,

drifting slowly away from me 

across the years. 

I’ve felt your restless waters,

your crumbling edifice, your waves. 

I’ve seen how dark this cave is, 

full of dancing shadows, echoes of echoes.

There is no avoiding the possibility of you 

in the ebb and flow of ongoing tides. 

I’ve seen you in the flash of the sun on the water.

I blink, and then you’re out of sight.

I’ve heard your quiet breath, 

as you lap against my surface.

Your shore is wide and open, your song a song of life, 

your ripples                                                 hardly there. 

I’ve always known how impossible you are. 

A bubble, faint with light. The skin of you so thin. 

What would it take to turn you into flesh? 

How can we know what could have been?

Publishing credits


S h a r e

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