Incognito, by Ros Woolner


The winter I was Valerie,
my borrowed name badge neatly pinned
to claret waistcoat, I was free
to try on attitudes. I grinned
when men sang songs about my name,
ignored their mocking words and eyes.
That badge became a talisman –
the perfect introvert’s disguise.

But, through the wide swing doors, I knew
there lay a realm of heat and fear,
of harsh white light and crashing pans.
My Valerie would disappear.
I’d be left nameless and exposed,
just waiting, trembling, for my cue
to break the news to Chef about
the vegan man on table two.

(‘Incognito’ previously appeared in Gifts of Love, the 2016 anthology of Bilston Writers).

Ros Woolner lives in Wolverhampton. Her poems have appeared in several anthologies and journals. She won the Guernsey International Poetry Competition in 2021 and was shortlisted for the Women Poets’ Prize in 2022. Her pamphlet On the Wing is available from Offa’s Press.


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