Rachael Ikins (Towards Visibility)

Rachael Ikins



Margaret Atwood as prophet. The Handmaid’s Tale there it is,

January 6, her words’ smooth iron eyes, “slaughter of Congress.

 Suspension of the Constitution” and “we thought it wouldn’t last.”


Yes, well, Roe vs. Wade did not outlive 2022. The Handmaid’s legs open—

her heart an echoing cave—to be inseminated “seeded” by loins of the pious

 and hypocritical. I don’t hang in the air like a pendulum, I fall fast and sharp:

insert an artificially created, by some humane method, a well-developed,

close-to-term fetus, say 6-7 pounder, via slice through perineum and anus into

 the congressman in charge of the house. Stitch the episiotomy tight as a virgin’s purse on his screams.


Like Nazis did to the Virgin Miriam in their camps, legs tied together on tightening

contractions, a demonic way to torture a woman to death, to squash an infant’s head

flat. Old rain drains under the porch. Peaches fall, abscission, ground-flattened

 (neonate skulls) smear bark. If he had to endure this, perhaps. Oh my God.

Just because we bleed.




So many lived in my house before me, did someone start something halfway up the stairs? again on the landing?  Did they stagger rug-rashed, barely connected into a bedroom which bedroom to collapse like a hollowed balloon across a bed, the story they thrashed out unspooling?


Sleep stole them, moon laid silver fingers on dreaming salt.


Robin voices pricked them awake.

Did they shower together lather-and-sluice and one-more-slippery-time sucking spray?

Body parts across sheets, fragrance of living things, vampire kisses, choosing upper inner thigh, bruise coaxed with tooth, lip, ownership lavished, an artist’s tongue;

Coded messages.


When we began, we wore each other, traded skins. Yours cracked-red, silk starved for friction. Mine a knife-sheath as blade slid home tears laked my eyes. We hovered paralyzed as lizards, stuck dogs nipping air while we waited for thrust. 


Oh, I could barely walk, loose jeans, no underwear. Skin rubbery enough to extrude a small human greedy for so much craving.


Numeric/opposite, we glued. Face-to-faced. Caught each other from behind. Spelunkers. 


This bee-stung moon three years long, car almost ran off the road we couldn’t stop touching when I picked you up from the airport.  In hammocks July dusk outside a neighbor’s window. Whispering smiles into each other’s necks as workmen hammered downstairs.


One day you have to reduce the heat so you can tolerate water’s touch. So we simmered three decades,


this last ritual shared,

the last words,

our final prayer,


your name carved beneath my armpit, throbs every heartbeat,

all the hieroglyphics 

nobody sees

grief endures, love lives and 

I wonder as I climb 

did anyone who lived here fuck 

halfway up

the stairs.






The water stood up,

climbed over the wall, skirt hiked above lumps of knees, it roared. Head thrown back, neck tendons standing out, two guardians kicked the wall into pieces.


Bodies long submerged say goodbye to seaweeds which unsnarl green fingers to release these bloated boats. Bones’ white saws through where   the water stands up climbs the wall, clatter lumps of knees and chatter anklebones. 


Where is it going to go? 


They gesticulate at each other while the roof of a house floats by, slow rotating majesty blew its top. 


When the water stood up, hiked that skirt it roared bits of poetry, broken china and the garble of sifting stones hand to 


hand, halfway across the planet, smoke. Fire stands up, throws itself into the flames naked and squeals, sparks fly from each boot-step. Particles of ash blanket cities, skylines erased, flocks vanish into its cotton.


Fire opens its mouth, giggles

Scampering along highways through dried stands of pine. 


We used to feel lucky —those people out west with wildfire and mudslides— our green bower was safe we believed until the winter the snow stopped. Surely the rains will come, we thought, at the boundary when winter melts into spring. 




You lug buckets of water from the pool,

rain barrel 80 gallons dry twice now, 

tease tender seedlings 


tomato eggplant artichoke 


just one woman with a perfect heart. 

You are not a thunderstorm. 

You are not days/weeks of slow, soaking rain. 

You run back-and-forth between two houses,

two families of cats, two gardens of struggle.


An osprey lights on a power pole at the entrance

to the taco joint. You wonder what he wants so far

from the river, 

no fish tacos here.


The water stands up. 

Fire stands up. 

Smoke absorbs birds into its thousand fists, 

wings of ash, shattered feather, voice drones on

and that raptor peers down an endless crack

of mummified earth. 

Garden once a refuge, today a need

impossible to meet. 


Smoke smells like peonies, and

peony petals cook brown,

even as the flower still holds herself open

for pollinators,

her hopeless drive

to protect the seeds.


Rachael Ikins is a 2016/18/2022 Pushcart, 2013/18 CNY Book Award, 2018 Independent Book Award winner, 2019 Vinnie Ream; Faulkner poetry finalist & 2021 Best of the Net nominee. She is a Syracuse University graduate with a degree in Child and Family Studies. She worked as a vet tech and later as a sign language interpreter/teaching assistant with ages K-12. Author/illustrator of nine books in multiple genres. Her writing and artwork have appeared in journals worldwide from India, UK, Japan, Canada, and US. She was invited to feature Pride 2023 at Rare Voices, Rochester NY and at Sea of Coffee, Geneva NY. Born in the Fingerlakes she lives by a river with her dogs, cats, saltwater fish, a garden that feeds her through winter and riotous houseplants with a room of their own. Frogs found their way to her fountain. Dragons fly by.

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