Ruth Steadman




The Prize

Until it arrives I have yet to learn
to knot my tie like the sixth form girls –

we junior girls still wear scrubbed knees
open to the speech day sun, faces raised

to the headmaster as his great tongue
enunciates all that it is we have earned.

We’ve been shown how each of us
will be called up to the stage in turn

how to curtsey as this pedigree man
lays his gift in our palms, rehearsed

the polite way to thank him. Still
when it is time, my surname sounds

like a wave, rising from pelvis to chest
as I step out to the dais. Then

the smell of currency on his breath
as the headmaster leans in close

to my ear, the fear in my mouth
like some sort of silence, or loss.

The weight of the ribbon tied box
is surprisingly warm.

I unknot my satins and hold in my hands
my accent – this taut, fleshy thing.




Ruth Steadman’s poetry has been published in The High Window, New Boots and Pantisocracies, on the Royal Academy’s blog, and is forthcoming in Popshot Magazine. She lives in London and works as a CBT Therapist in private practice.  Website:

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