Archive for May, 2012

baby birds

May 25, 2012

Baby robins  looked so barely finsihed when they hatched. Now they have voices and eyes to watch with, they even have begun grooming the feathers that fledge faster than I can imagine on the wings that will one day, soon, make of each small heart a soaring dragon as each finds flight.  I wonder as I look at the one series of baby robin photos I took last summer. It was of one baby who d fledged out onto our deck. S/he roosted beneath our gas grill for two whole days. Mama brought worms and fed the baby there. By the evening the baby was disappeared. Found the next morning snuggled among hemlock fronds. Until I came too close with my camera whereupon s/he launched from the boughs and without skill to steer, simply went straight into the neighbor’s juniper bush. I wonder if that novice pilot is one of the parents of this year’s quadruplets.

Remember bringing home chicks, the cat crate we first kept them in and the heat lamp. How amazing it was that tiny as they were, they d peck at the feed on a bare hand. I loved watching them grow into hens and roosters until, of course, there were too many roosters so several moved on. I was especially fond of Papi a barred Roc. He was very gentle and a good guardian of his girls. I d leave the house with treats in my hand, and within moments a thunder of small dinosaurs rounded the house as he brought them excitedly to see what morsel I was carrying. And when the girls grew old enough to lay eggs..the alarmed call at sunrise, and no wonder! Ouch! then I ‘d go fetch fresh eggs. And as much as I fed them scraps and leftovers plus, I also kept tending my compost pile. Until one day I noticed the chickens tended it, too. I think they ate everything but coffee grounds and tea leaves. I looked at it as one step further along the break-down, compost process. They ‘d sit around its confines in winter, no doubt feeling warmth rising from within as chemicals did their dance.


Raising Baby Robins

May 25, 2012

They are growing their “Andy Rooney” eyebrows

May 25, 2012

Dad brings dinner

May 25, 2012

Rachael poses before “Green Menhir” by PW Mary Kester in color coordinated dress. Rachael’s poem “Terrarium” hangs to the left of the tapestry to go with it in the earth reverential mood of both art and writing.

Oh, What a Night!

May 25, 2012

Review of the Ekphrasis Art Opening and Readings by our CNY branch of the NLAPW

at the Szozda, Gallery,Syracuse NY  by Rachael Z. Ikins



The opening took place to a full house, Friday, May 11.Gallery director, Caroline Szozda-McGowan did a magnificent job hanging our show. Many multi-talented members have we! Poetry hangs beside tapestry and painting alike or is free standing from hand made paper in the center of the exhibit with a pair of cotton gloves for those who wish to peruse the contents of the works there to touch without hurting the paper.


The exuberant energy of all the combined artists can be felt as soon as one enters the room. It was standing room only, that first night, topped off when I, (Rachael Ikins) newly a woman of the arts as well as of letters, donned my cowboy hat to read “The Outlaw Women of CNY” at the request of our president, Joan Applebaum. PW Mary Kester and her husband Mike provided wonderful musical accompaniment to our hors d’oeuvres and conversation. Linda Bigness snapped shots of the reading.


The second event or first full length reading happened last Thursday, May 17. Rachael invited musician Bob Carbone of the Piano andOrganCenter, Clay, where many of our members have hung and do hang artwork to play for us. The turn-out of women of the brush for the women of letters was inspiring. We letters women can only express a heartfelt “thank you” to our sisters in art!


The readings were a wonderful, eclectic mix by a variety of writers whose many genres encompass our letters portion of our chapter. I alternated prose with poetry for an easy and interesting flow. Not only did we have good poetry by our Poetry Contest chair, Mary Gardner, but Sheila Byrnes followed my poetry reading and explained for us how we could start a research project into our own family trees. Nancy Keefe Rhodes read an informative film review she had written comparing the older version of “True Grit”the movie starring John Wayne with the more modern version starring Jeff Bridges. Put in historical context, her review was truly fascinating. New PW Lorraine Arsenault brought tears to audience eyes with her intimate poetry about her mother and family. Her entire family turned out in support.

I was especially moved that from various writers’ groups I have visited over the past decade, two carloads of far reaching guests responded to my invitation to read during the guest portion of the evening. It was good to reconnect and listen to Mike Sickler’s poems again as well as to hear from the head of Creative Writing at CazenoviaCollege, David Waite and his colleague DM Shepard who made us laugh with her uproarious poem “TV Dinners” followed by her son, Paul who recited his work with passion. From Canastota came Donna Ward who is a photographer and a poet, with a nostalgic piece about playing marbles. She is considering joining our ranks as a woman of the arts. The evening finished with one of our 2012 Friends, Tish Dickinson who read a poem and then from a sensitive, compassionate prose piece about her mother’s decline into Alzheimer’s.  Tish says she is at work on the entire memoir entitled “Just How Long Have You Been My Daughter?”


Sunday’s 1 p.m. reading was more sparsely attended what with all of us being gardeners and wishing to be out on our knees working in the earth. Many thanks, however, to those who came to read none the less. Georgia Popoff entertained us with excerpts from works old and new. Especially interesting to me is her in-progress collection of poetry from the point of view of inanimate objects belonging to famous people ie. Emily Dickinson’s inkwell and Janice Joplin’s cowbell. Looking forward to the book.

 We heard from new PW poet, Bobbie Panek ofAuburnas well as Janet Fagal’s passionate talk on the teaching of poetry and her debut to PW poems. Her passion was contagious. How lucky her students to have been inspired by her. No wonder young Tim, one of this year’s elementary school winners dedicated his poem “to Mrs. Fagal, my poetry teacher.” at the award ceremony last month.

We had a special guest, Alexandra Aureden, one of Mrs. Fagal’s fourth grade poets who recited a poem for us. We hope she continues in her passion for reading and writing. Perhaps one day, she ‘ll be a Pen Woman, too. In her honor, and because I write more genres than poetry, I read from an award winning fantasy  short story, the manuscript of which novel it is taken from, is currently under consideration in its entirety. After the reading Alex and her mom  asked me how to order the book so that she could find out “what happens next. “Success!


During each reading Caroline provided a table where those of us who have published books and other items could display them for sale.  We all really appreciated it. Several writers were able to sell some books! And this artist was lucky enough to have someone purchase a print of the artwork hanging in this exhibit and an owl mug (the “PW” letterhead Owl) as well. Thanks everyone for bringing the wonderful array of refreshments and beverages!


Yolanda and I enjoyed working with Caroline Szozda. We meshed beautifully. She thought of everything! Her hanging of our artwork is spectacular. If you haven ‘t yet stopped down at the gallery to see the Ekphrasis exhibit, you really should brave the construction before we take our work home the first week in June. It is well worth the effort. Artists include Joan Stier, Joan Applebaum, Roscha Folger, Linda Bigness, Rachael Ikins, Mary Kester, Mary Ranieri, Jeanne Dupre, Georgia Popoff, Wendy Harris, Sallie Bailey, and Yolanda Tooley. Poets hanging with others’ art include Mary Gardner, Rachael Ikins, Lorraine Arsenault, Bobbie Panek, and Georgia Popoff.

If I left anyone’s name out, it is totally an oversight of an overloaded mind. Please forgive me and feel free to post it on our PW blog.


May 9, 2012

The Dream

rachael z. ikins



Last night we spoke

of mangoes, pomegranates,

juice-drip, the many seeds.

Curled against my basket

your hot fruits nestle.

Your ribs’ shelf rests,

my right hand,

its silver cherry.


I wake, your fingers

fluttering across my breast like

a flock of golden-eyed  sparrows

hungry for those tiny purple berries

I forget the name of them.





Prayer to the Goddess

May 9, 2012

Prayer, Paradox,  Goddess


Rachael Z. Ikins


Swamp warmth, steamy surprise

follows months of snow-hummock piled

under hemlock lace.


Clacking, squeaks, soprano,

basso profundo, male frogs waken.

Female Female Female

background dissonance, harmony;

Canadian geese discuss flat fields below,

cardinals cheer, phoebes ask, woodpeckers code,

warblers liquid air. Renewal. Songs

of possession.


Fiddleheads’ clitorii uncurl, nestled between

copper down, labial moss. Everywhere life,

decomposition, paradoxic eroticism, this dance–forest and bog,

flares my nostrils until I, too, ache, my centered red

bud, shiny, hard as a partridge berry.


Jack-in-the-pulpit phalluses above testicular leaf pouches.

Dog tooth violets’ soft, yellow teeth. I take his

left hand.  Naked, we pray, this cathedral.

His knees, mine,  my petals unfold.

his slippery, plum-ripe length.


We worship. Overhead ancient spruces glimmer,

kaleidoscopic guardians.  Frantic fecundity,

transparent oak leaves above us, last year’s piled soft

beneath. We cry out for peace, love

in the forest. Amen. Yes, before it is too late.


Thunder shirts for dogs and beyond

May 9, 2012

I remember when Temple Grandin, autistic author invented the humane cradling system to calm animals being led to slaughter. She had found during her own episodes of panic and collapse, that being restrained in a firm but comfortable hold helped her calm herself.
I was just reading in “Dog Fancy” about the use of such things for dogs and also cats, as well. To treat anxiety during trips in the car or thunderstorms.
In my own life, relevant to my own body, I still recall those awful months that followed my cessation of all medications given me for anxiety, depression, panic and so on. Usually the “experts” felt giving four or five high doses simultaneously, as if to fine-tune the brain and its billions of cells was like going under the hood of an automobile. My body and nervous sytem was in a constant state of upheaval as the kinds and doseages were changed and recombined with each other. I was slowly and carefully weaned off each one, seizures, heart rhythm upset, no sleep for days at a time…my body twitched and muscles rippled up and down my legs and arms of their own accord. My face felt constantly smushed and pulled as if large cement blocks were squashing the bones of my mouth. I did not find help in the medical world. The physicians who’d given me the meds. did not know or did not wish to deal with the consequences. So, ultimately it was up to me to find a way to heal my own body and calm it when agitated. Now I bring up the thunder shirt. At that time in my history, jersey sheets had become an “in” fad. I bought some because the only fabric that I could tolerate against my skin was jersey tee-shirts.
The more twitches, spasms, erroneous sensations, tingling numbnesses traveling up and down my spinal cord, the more anxious I became. It makes perfect sense. I taught myself to roll my body up tightly, as if swaddling, in a stretchy jersey sheet. I ‘d pin my arms inside it and also my legs. Only my toes peeked out. I ‘d lay an herbal eye bag across my eyes, which applied gentle constant pressure to over 40 trigger points in the eye and nose bridge area. I would wait. Slowly my heart would calm down. I would eventually almost but never quite again, lose the awareness of every heart beat. Several hours of lying like this and also at times with my legs elevated, I could calm my body more easily than with any capsule or tablet.
So, let’s hear it for thunder shirts. I’ve lived it. I know it can help with anxiety’s discomfort.
Even now, years after that chapter of my life closed and fades, on a bad night I will get out the stretchy sheet and seek refuge in its tight embrace in the spare bed until it squeezes me to sleep.