An elegy from “The Woman With Three Elbows” coming soon from Rachael Ikins

Of Angels and Salvation

Misdiagnosed with two mental illnesses-pigeonholed by psychiatrists-at 35, I weighed 200 lbs. My hair was falling out memories erased by a decade: 1990s, while taking over 21 antipsychotics, tranquilizers, combinations of supplements. Four-five drugs simultaneously, four times daily, my brain reeling.  Destiny: a locked ward or death, I couldn’t write any more.

We adopted two kittens. When the tiny female clawed her way up my clothes to nestle under my hair, I thought, “I’ve been chosen.”What power cared for my wretched life to choose me?

My husband was overwhelmed by my decline; his heart disease and cancer. We’d been each other’s rocks. Now our life dashed apart on the rocks it became. Family, friends faded away, eager to believe the horrible diagnoses, angry at me rather than challenge the practitioners.

Meanwhile, this kitten named Nestlé moved into my shirt. Sometimes, just a bathing suit, she dug her way in. I called her my little joey. Aware that the drugs damaged my heart, psychiatrists ignored my voiced concerns. Nestlé laid over it every night. Though I tossed and turned, she rode me like a leaf on a wave.     

The night I flushed final meds down the toilet after a year’s slow reductions, I began seizing. Drifted in and out of consciousness; yet, my husband didn’t call 911. If I went to the hospital, I’d end up back on “all that shit” as he put it. He’d saved shelves full of bottles in the basement.

Nestlé guarded my heart. Washed my face, dug claws into my skin, just enough to stimulate me to breathe. When I look back on that endless darkness, a pink light shone. I hung onto it. I realized later,  that light was Nestlé .

Withdrawal syndrome never left. You can’t drug someone that way for a decade without consequences. Debt incurred largely by therapist’s greed, which took our house. Then Nestlé died. I carried her body in my shirt for twelve hours before goodbye.

Online I found a kitten, with a birthdate that was two days from Nestle’s. Miraculously, Katie was Nestle’s great-great-granddaughter. My grief eased; she was still with me. Katie climbed into my clothes and covers. Washed my face, laid on my chest in the bathtub, tail trailing in the water. The worst insomniac months, when no psychiatrist  would give me anything to help me sleep. For the horrible sensations of pain-tingling, itching and pulsations, a cardiologist wrote a prescription for Ambien. Night after sleepless night, I left my cat in bed while I sat in the lightless bathroom holding the bottle, ready to swallow the entire  contents. Only the love for that cat stopped me. Often she wandered into the bathroom to sit at my feet. I’d put the bottle back.

Through the loss of my husband, our house, a disastrous move, coming out at age 54  and a failed second marriage; my mother’s death, my aching loneliness in an apartment, where I was left to sort the past’s wreckage and build a new life through the making life poetry and art, she was there. Chirping, playing, sitting on the keyboard when she’d had enough of me working, rustling in art papers, curling on my bare arm in summer heat.

When she died in 2016, I wanted to follow her. However, I couldn’t leave my other animal family. I searched for a house. Months later House and I found each other. I named it “Katie.”

Nestle’s and Katie’s ashes rest in a locket over my heart. I never take it off. I put down roots and true healing began. I owe my life to that angel, a soul that shared two bodies, who walked beside me for 22 years. Came into my life in the only form I would’ve responded to, humans having proven too dangerous and untrustworthy, she saved me.

 At age 58, after testing and discussion with my family practice doctor, who is a big fan of my artwork, I learned that I am on the Asperger’s spectrum. None of those other experts caught it. They were so eager to slot me into a pigeonhole and forget me. A little cat refused to let me go, and for that priceless love, I will always be grateful.

Wolfpack Contributor: Rachael Ikins

A Fevers of the Mind Quick-9 Interview with Rachael Ikins

Poems by Rachael Ikins

New poems by Rachael Ikins : While Shopping in Wal Mart & Nine Minutes Twenty Nine Seconds

grocery cart photo

photo by Ph B on Unsplash.

While Shopping in Wal Mart

Whiskey-cured skin the purplish
hue of cigarette smoke, she spoke
into her phone 
as she shoved among the racks of 
Carters newborn clothes. Her daughter. 
They need preemie size.
Mom says, 
“You keep squirting out these jellybeans” 
they laughed.

I imagine then that daughter smokes, too,
remember the infomercial where a young mom
who smoked during pregnancy resulting in premature

birth, advises you to “put your face near” 
the NICU incubator opening
“so your baby can see and hear you better.”
I distance from maskless Grandma, 
I bet they refuse vaccines, too.

Nine Minutes, Twenty-Nine Seconds

Lips, your chocolate silk, sweet
brush mine, drift down
my neck, kind eyes heat me.
A heartbeat- Those lips, 
swollen, desire breathes.
Nose bloodied, your neck dips
Clipped beneath another man’s weight. 
Full pivot, one knee, 
“Look, Ma, no fucking hands!”
glasses cap his head, he 
snaps, “Get back!”
testosterone high as he
mashes you 
flatter into 
asphalt.
And the world watches your mouth melt, mix, hot tar and a carbon monoxide cloud. 

Wolfpack Contributor: Rachael Ikins  

An elegy from “The Woman With Three Elbows” coming soon from Rachael Ikins 

A Fevers of the Mind Quick-9 Interview with Rachael Ikins




A Fevers of the Mind Quick-9 Interview with Rachael Ikins

with Rachael Ikins:

Q1: When did you start writing and first influences?

Rachael: I started writing poetry around age 6 or 7. My father read me psalms from the Bible as well as poems from The Little Pocket Book of Verse given to all members of the military when I was small at bedtime. At the same time my first grade teacher, Miss Mahoney was putting short poems on the blackboard for us to copy to learn to print. It was inevitable that I write my own, the first two of which I can still recite.

Q2: Who are some of your biggest influences today?

Rachael: My biggest influence today in a person is probably as she always has been, Marge Piercy. Patricia Smith has a big impact on me as well as Almeta Whitis in terms of how to deliver my poems at readings.

Q3: Where did you grow up and how did that influence your writing/art? Have any travels away from home influenced work/describe?

Rachael: I was born and raised at the head of Skaneateles lake in NY ‘s Fingerlakes region. We spent 8 weeks every summer and many weekends at our camp 10 miles out. Running 60 acres of woods and intimacy with nature plus a mom and grandmother who helped me hunt for faeries indelibly touched my creative soul and it is there the poet really was born. An honorarium in a castle in Lismore Ireland to study with many famous authors and to read evenings urged me to keep at it.

Q4: What do you consider the most meaningful work you’ve done creatively so far?

Rachael: My most meaningful work to date is my book Just Two Girls which makes a stand for LGBTQ community in its non binary poetry as well as For Kate which is about love, loss and grief. The past year since Covid I have been accepted into multiple themed anthologies to do with climate change. More recently still I have begun a body of work since the murder of George Floyd. I used to think of myself as just someone who “wrote pretty pictures” but as I have grown I have become an activist for the issues above. Poetry can reach people in ways other things do not.

Q5: Any pivotal moment when you knew you wanted to be a writer?

Rachael: I always knew I wanted to be a poet/artist. I had to battle my family and a therapist to prove it. It is what I was born. The only relative who saw this was my beloved grandfather who nurtured it in me until he died when I was 13.

Q6: Favorite activities to relax?

Rachael: My favorite things to do that are not writing include photography and making visual art, working on renovating my house, gardening, biking, walks with my dogs, streaming movies, reading and cooking. To name a few.

Q7: Any recent or forthcoming projects you’d like to promote?

Rachael: My upcoming release this Fall is new for me. It is the first in a four book series of a young reader chapter book series titled, “A Piglet for David.” Unlike my other books which use my own artwork, I hired a professional illustrator and she did a fabulous job. It is aimed at ages 8-11 when children read competently for themselves and has fewer pictures. I used to live with potbellied pigs and my college degree is in Child and Family studies so research and background came easily. No photos or links yet but Clare Songbirds Publishing House is releasing the book.

Q8: What is a favorite line/stanza from a poem of yours or others?

Rachael: A favorite line is an old one, “I carry the earth on my back. My heart hurts with this heaviness.” Because while I wrote it in the ‘90s, here we are gripped by climate change and damage we’ve done to our planet. Writing isn’t enough. Its a gift to use as advocacy, too. Or can be. Songs, “Nothing Compares to You” Sinead O’Conner. “Respect” Aretha Franklin.

Q9: Who has helped you most with writing?

Rachael: The person who helped me most with my writing, and there are several who appeared at crucial crossroads, was Elizabeth Patton my eighth grade English teacher. Tish Dickinson library director and leader of my first writing group, Canastota Writers. Candi and Arthur Ramer who hosted my first feature reading and art gallery exhibits. Late in the game the last three showed me I am a professional regardless of education or lack of family support. Especially Tish’s unflagging enthusiasm and support has made all the difference.

I should add I have published at least 9 books with 3 publishers, Foothills Publishing, Finishing Line Press and Clare Songbirds Publishing. Each publisher has created opportunities and offered suport ie. The chance to go to Ireland was through Leah Maines and for their support and belief in my writing I have much gratitude. Leah in particular checks in with opportunities of various sorts and has done through the years.

Links:

Wolfpack Contributor: Rachael Ikins

An elegy from “The Woman With Three Elbows” coming soon from Rachael Ikins

Poems by Rachael Ikins

http://www.foothillspublishing.com/2012/id51.htm

http://cayugamuseum.org/rachael-ikins/

https://www.claresongbirdspub.com/our-team/

https://headlinepoetryandpress.com/2019/11/22/friday-feature-mother-earth-by-rachael-ikins/

Bio: Rachael Ikins is a 2016/18 Pushcart, 2013/18 CNY Book Award, 2018 Independent Book Award winner, & 2019/2020 Vinnie Ream & Faulkner poetry finalist.  She is a Syracuse University graduate and author/illustrator of nine books in multiple genres. Her writing and artwork have appeared in journals world wide from India, UK, Japan, Canada and US. Born in the Fingerlakes she lives by a river with her dogs, cats, salt water 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.

Rachael Z. Ikins Voice for the Voiceless
Associate Editor Clare Songbirds Publishing House, Auburn NYhttps://www.claresongbirdspub.com/shop/featured-authors/rachael-ikins/2020 NLAPW Biennial Letters Competition 3rd prize Childrens category2019 Faulkner Finalist2019-20 Vinnie Ream semi-finalist2018 Independent Book Award winner (poetry)2013, 2018 CNY Book Award nominee2016, 2018 Pushcart nomineeWww.writerraebeth.wordpress.comhttps://m.facebook.com/RachaelIkinsPoetryandBooks/@poetreeinmoshun on Instagram@writerraebeth on Tumblr@nestl493 on Twitter

Poems by Rachael Ikins

Crow On A Fence, Farm, Corvid

Under Cover of Darkness

A crow
flying under cover
of darkness, south wind.
Blue satin memories of you.

Whispers in the window
of the room
where I sleep.
My eyes open.
Not trying to remember nor
wanting to forget;
you are just

here. My desire to speak
claws my throat,
need-sweat leaks
from every pore. Wide awake,
no dream. Another night
numb with wanting
you.
 
A Marination of my Brain/Adverse Reaction/Side Effects

Screaming 
empty head.
Inside,
voices calling,
entreating life-or-death

Mesmerized,
traffic sounds and clock-
ticks, my throat sticks
shut:

I am so tired
There is no synapse strong
(long) enough to bridge
the void from my ears
to my tongue.

I cannot speak: in a haze
of lazy desperation
my eyes roll sideways
my ears lean toward nonsense
noise.

I drift slowly.
Away, receding, diminishing
in a cloud the sound of bitter
car exhaust
Even as we watch
me swallow.

Counting the Days

I collected first fallen red leaves
for my mother when she was in rehab. Married three times, always to an alcoholic, it wasn't until her doctor staged an intervention that she admitted she was.  Too late, Pancreatic cancer spread to her liver.

Early fallen red leaves, like these,
and her blood on pavement, after all the cocktail hours her last husband, who was blind, knocked her down. Why was she always the one who lost months in rehabs for broken bones, never him?

These first fallen red leaves under a sugar maple near my house, an alien friend, whose bark I touch every time we pass, whisper.
How my mother would've lived later years if she hadn't married every man she dated.

My  uncle says she was afraid to be alone. After her second husband died, she found temporary balance, worked at a small-town library, walked to work with a bag lunch, relishing the embrace, fragrance of books and independence.

These fallen red leaves, pages of the year 2020's story, a year she never saw; when a plague struck, Black men and women were murdered, uprisings, peaceful protests in the streets of cities a president will try to punish by cheating, the election year two civil rights icons died. Our democracy may follow: a dusty grave pounded by boots of maskless masses who follow a madman desperate to stay out of prison.

Sun crisps leaves.
They flutter away on drought winds, worried at possibility - smouldering cigarette tossed from a car window. My mother, five years gone at ninety, needs no protection from the present. She quit smoking when she was 65.

My Mother's Bones

Her skull a restless ache
beneath my skin, my lips and tension hers.

My feet emerge
onto my grandmother's path. Calloused,
purplish spiders spinning
aged silk, weave a story of
a life lived.

My mother's hands float beneath
my fingers, that deformed right thumbnail,
while left pinky quirks for my dad.

How is it my ancestors rise?
So soon? Night falls
So soon? Dawn blinked
luscious lashes
minutes ago.


Bio: Rachael Ikins is a 2016/18 Pushcart, 2013/18 CNY Book Award, 2018 Independent Book Award winner, & 2019/2020 Vinnie Ream & Faulkner poetry finalist.  She is a Syracuse University graduate and author/illustrator of nine books in multiple genres. Her writing and artwork have appeared in journals world wide from India, UK, Japan, Canada and US. Born in the Fingerlakes she lives by a river with her dogs, cats, salt water 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.

Wolfpack Contributor: Rachael Ikins 

A Fevers of the Mind Quick-9 Interview with Rachael Ikins 

An elegy from “The Woman With Three Elbows” coming soon from Rachael Ikins