Breath & Shadow

A Journal of Disability Culture and Literature


Boy From Outer Space by Rachael Z. Ikins

Bounce off gym walls
With kickballs

You see that kid?
With tissue-paper skin
And black eyes


In the whiteness of his face?
Children sneaker-slap
Floor clap

By me. . .

He crouches
On the sideline near the boys'

Whispering to his fingers
He wears blue moon-boots
(feet from outer space)

Tears lake his eyes
As I speak to him
Answered only
By my own reflection

Sky-high and empty
A cloudless August

Working Horse by Rachael Z. Ikins

Big sorrel Belgian,
last stall on the right.
Buzz-cut blonde mane,
forever he runs away
inside his head. Rescued from
a farmer who used him
without the care lavished
on a rusty old tractor.

He bites his own fore-leg, groans,
collapses back into the hay rack ,
wrinkles his long soft lips, terror's
grotesque smile when we come close.
Ghost-hands raise the lash, the whip, the knife
Behind his eyes. Baby, baby, Gideon.
Not all hands are fisted! Tears tell him
This. They paint my cheeks.

Look (look softly) only a brush,
or a sweet oatmeal cookie: sometimes,
tremble-fingers reach more terrified than he.

I sit here, cloaked in velvet insomniac darkness
and surreal green screen-light. I imagine him asleep
right now, this just-past-midnight moment,
one back foot cocked that way horses do,
his left side where his hip is scarred and the hoof broken
off, head drooping, ears flutter, eyes closed
I wonder what he dreams about.

Borderline Young Woman Waits For Her Therapist; The Building by Rachael Ikins

Waiting I become
immobile, flattened
against the gravity of this wall,
pale, peach colored girl-pores
absorbed by porous peach-pale

My toe-prints' whorls are sucked
through my socks and shoes to spiral into
the carpet-- optical illusion.

I blend.
I bend to the chair's curve.

Sighs of air rushing in ceiling-high vents
respire to my rhythm. A far-off radiator hammers
keeping cadence with my heart.

Voices channeled between hollow walls,
the halls, and cardboard doors
travel along my ear canals.
Doors click and slam,
clack shut, hiss open; keys jingle
(the bumble of the elevator)
spontaneously evoke muscle tics,
twitch my body parts.
A cough rumbles from my chest.

Outside wild-wind soughs and exhales.
Overhead, huge, gasping breaths
extinguish lights (life)

I am no longer.
We are darkness
disarticulate. Me,
just a shadow smudged
on your wall.

Rachael Z. Ikins was born and raised in New York's Fingerlakes region. She began writing poetry at age 14, and practicing photography 1984. She lives with, around, and through her disability since the 70s. From 2003 on she has won 8 poetry, juried into art shows, and founded a poetry group in Hamilton, NY. Her first chapbook was recently accepted for publication. She lives in the country with her partner and their many animals.

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