How have I made beauty a prerequisite to belonging? by Rachel Stempel

I don’t answer
questions as asked
because I’ve my own
agendas. The dawn birds
wait for me to face the mirror to sing
their aubade—a lament whose ringing
never calms the tremors I’ve brought
to the table from furious
dream logic, the same
fury reddening
my cheeks, and I call it flush
because it sounds more romantic than truth

If I can pluck three eyelashes
              Today will be good

All good things come in threes

but I’ve lost count. Sometimes
you do something bad to prevent yourself
from doing something worse.

              Today I am a white horse caked in rouge, hellbent
on seduction


Rachel Stempel is a genderqueer Ukrainian-Jewish poet and PhD student in English at Binghamton University. They are the author of the chapbooks, BEFORE THE DESIRE TO EAT (Finishing Line Press), Dear Abbey (Bottlecap Press, 2022), and Interiors (Foundlings Press, 2022). They currently live, laugh, and love in New York with their rabbit, Diego. You can find them at

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