Three Poems by Rachel Cathleen Stewart

sc june 18


We take your insults
and wear them easy,
like a summer dress
even though it’s midwinter
We won’t freeze here
Letters will be read
Feet will march
We give you life
You give us worry
no choices
no chance
and yet
we still persist
like a wound that won’t heal
We are the scab
you can’t help but pick at
and we are always healing
in spite of you
It is our great magic
passed down through the generations
from woman to woman
as easy as braiding hair
or untangling a too-tight knot
we are loosened
There are no more
boxes for us to open


“I’m three days late,” she tells me
over a text.

I’m years late, my eggs turning to tiny pebbles in my ovaries
never bursting, like a cocoon of baby spiders stretching their little legs

My guts used to twist themselves into tender knots but now
my skin is soft and sour, like buttermilk

People lean into me and whisper their secrets in my ear
They prick like the needles, sharp stainless and medicinal
This is for your own good
Take my sin
Take my secrets

But I won’t
I have my own in plain sight
the elephant that everyone ignores
when my husband laughs louder than other couples
who have never lost anything, not even a piece of mail

We’ve misplaced mortgage deeds,
constantly mismatched socks,
lost wedding rings,
gained brain tumors,
lost sanity,
but still hold out for faith

I have no biological clock
all the gears have stopped
and even if he could put his hands on the timepiece
I doubt the hand would move forward

We are stuck, like a smudged thumbprint on a map.

The Beauty Ballot

Paint splattered sketches of women,
forms comically enhanced with no hope of reality
Vile words rolling around
in the mouths of would-be politicians.

Is that all we are?
Just a whiff of floral perfume,
sun-stretched strands of hair
that has been straightened, curled, teased, tormented
by brushes and combs and bobby pins?

Are our bodies even our own?
Or can they separate them from our minds like church and state?
My body has always been a church,
soft marble cutting through the harsh state
of never being enough, no matter how many souls
I let in to wander and haunt my halls.
They never stay long or tell me what I need to hear.
Their ramblings echo,
blindsiding me in the quietest of moments
on a hot November night.

Rachel Cathleen Stewart holds a B.A. in English: Creative Writing from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. Her poems have appeared in Sequoya Review, Mannequin Envy, Poems Niederngasse, Unlikely Stories, and Slow Trains Literary Journal. Her non-fiction prose has appeared on XOJane.