i am a nurse, gardener, and mother who writes poems– at a wooden desk in a 116-year-old house, with the window open. i am a graduate of brown university and the jefferson college of nursing. poetry is a practice, a surprise; a motion to lift up any given thing. it is always on my to-do list.

contact: rachel.betesh@gmail.com

Longlisted for 2022 Emerging Poet Prize, Palette Poetry

selected poems

SWEEPING, featured on Philadelphia Contemporary’s Healing Verse Poetry Line, curated by Trapeta Mayson and Yolanda Wisher (March 2023)

in position, how the broom leans: 
at rest, left at ease, 

easy to start with, like hot tea, 
or hearing the doves. 

picking up, like the day 
quickens, then slows. 

the broom is a habit, 
a name pulled again 

from corners, where the ends
collect: congregation 

on the ground. dust 
is a softness, you can reach for it, 

same grey as the dove: 
plain, but singing. 

it settles here, what seems 
a narrow path, 

from our boots, that low beneath, 
where we’ve been, 

the spilled oats, 
delicate legs of spiders

we hadn’t seen, swept up 
with the lost cotton

of our clothes, 
now less woven. 

broom: taken up, re-
assembled: the day, 

the doves. bird-call 
for the loose light of morning:

a pile built, or made. 
a gift found, or gathered.

FEEDING THE HORSES, Brink (Fall 2022)


BUILT TO WAIT , The New Yorker (November 29, 2021)


WHERE SOMETHING HAPPENS, Philadelphia Stories (Summer 2022)


THE TASK (For Daunte Wright)

accidents, the unexpected:
a too-cold night
wilting what would bloom
but for this, the forecast.
swell of the wooden door
on damp days,
and the task of pushing it
in to fit, into the frame.
that the officer meant, she says,
to take her taser, instead of her gun.
heat, that the light makes
by repetition on the man,
climbing, in the tinder.
we should know him.
frost, of having turned to ice
what moved then,
meaning before.
just left with it,
what’s been endlessly done.
looking for a word
in the pile of flowers.
that one,
accident: too thick from use,
mistake: the edges curl, weakly.
call this a fire: sound
all the bells for it,
a burning wrong.
not an accident–
this weather, the fast pull.
tender things everywhere,
opening, on slippery leaves
soaked through with it,
the rain.


A THOUSAND TRIPS [ a collaboration with artist Rebekah Scotland, for the Sketchbook Project at Brooklyn Art Library ]

to view video of watercolor images accompanied by verses, click here

a barn swallow might make a thousand trips 
to build a nest, each flight there and back, 

starting over and coming home,
every time: a beakful of mud. imagine 

looking for it, diving, choosing
one slick mouthful, knowing the difference

between silt and clay, slippery and thick, 
what might keep and hold. imagine the mud 

on her wings, how she’d wear it: just where it fell. 
how it might streak along her feathers and how,

a hundred trips in, she’d have just barely
cast a shape with a name.  

there’d be grasses, pale yellow ones, 
last season’s yellow grasses, bent 

from all that trying, loose from their roots, light
from being done, hollow

so that the wind might move through them 
on the way to the eaves of the barn. no one counts this.
beakfuls. mud, grasses, and string. sometimes
you need a sharp tool to make sense 

of shapeless things. sometimes 
you need questions to live in the air. 

they’re known for it, the swallows: the low-diving,
the up-lifting, feeding as they go.