“Just Two Girls Revisited” “After the Hottest Heat Wave in Earth’s History””Just Two Girls Revisited” & “After the Call When You Learn Your Friend, Sick at Least a Year, Has Brain Cancer”

For Judy

Just Two Girls revisited

A bandaid on the road to stop the spread,

dogs process through their noses: goose turds, a seagull feather,

a flock of cancer cells flaps past. A day for cloud animals,

some top-heavy dragon glowers over maples chewed to lace,

that tree skeleton by the pond, chainsawed  chunks hauled away

by crime scene techs. Rot from within. 

A hornet checks for mail and that woman

you pass every day walks into the sun.

You float in your window boat, purple and turquoise waves

splay up the beach of your bones. 

A mermaid’s tail evolves 

beneath that sea,

a painful evolution 

one scale at a time,

until you won’t remember 

you once walked on two feet

when we will carry your words 

in baskets, torn pages of paper birch 

scattered on the water while

you climb into a broken-off 

mushroom cap and paddle one-armed, East,

small dog on your lap.

Just when the sun breaks the horizon in half,

someone on the beach blinks, reaches for a phone, a camera, 

but by the time 

she lifts it to her eye, 

all that remains of those two  

girls kissing on the water is the south wind’s voice,

ripples circling like arms, 

like a hug that embraces 

this life 

as long 

as those  arms 

can hold it.

After the Hottest Heat Wave in Earth’s History

Piled sock wads and shed shorts mumble in corners. 

Shoes stepped-out-of

shamble near doorways. 

Drying towels smell of  mold, 

and heat stored in unexpected places, 

a box of cookies exhales warmth when 

you open the flaps. 

You’ve been in the pool 

in the shower, 

kept your hair soaked, 

run naked through the golf course sprinklers at dawn, 

expect mushrooms to sprout from your navel. 

Packets of neatly embalmed hibiscus blossoms

drop into puddles. Float, so many perfect, wrapped mermaids

as lovely dead as when they spread themselves in the sun 

waiting for love’s juice.

You dove through walls of water, 

cartwheeled across the garden 

spouting books from every orifice, 

heart pounded a distant engine 

you could never quite hear, 

but you felt it through your skin. 

Yes, there are wonders, cactus buds, 

blackberries bigger than nipples, 

hummingbirds’ faces filled with gladiolus,


your friend is still dying. Tiny cells chase each other 

up and down the highway, infiltrate her membranes, 

ants in a sugar bowl. You keep driving even though 

you can’t see the end, 

even though the roar of water is so loud 

you can’t hear the destination. You do your best 

to arrive in time because that, the flower packets-

all there is. 

A moment of lust blinked to ashes,

memory of a summer lake

where you two almost intersected 

so many times 

on a different planet 

back when winters buried the castle on the hill

in deep 



After the Call When You Learn Your Friend, Sick at Least a Year, Has Brain Cancer

Your body heats up, skin hot enough to fry fish,

you and the dogs stumble into July dusk. Feathers hold

a baby’s face, a statue nestled among coneflowers. 

Fireflies sparkle, grass whispers to the bottoms of your naked

feet. Sickle moon hooks your voice in your throat,

laughter, remember that squirt gun fight?

The lake birthed you—a woman walking a dog under

an orange sun—framed. Now the lake in your blood sleeps

on a shelf next to your head.

Kingfisher to the east cries, dawn,

a blue gill dies, you know this

as surely as a single cell divided 

ten years ago. Camouflaged itself 

with twigs, neighbors suspected nothing.

The dog barks at the raw scent of metastasis.

How to get your attention? You miss your old dog,

the one who trotted into a car fender to save your life.


You brave claws, reach for the biggest raspberry,

it tumbles into darkness. The unborn baby, feathered hands

flies across the garden. Juice stains her small face. You swear

you didn’t leave her in the 

car. You pluck copulating beetles off roses, drop them

in a watering can to flush down the toilet.

You reach for the berry with a baby’s face, a cell divides,

skin hot enough to fry 

extrudes feathers. Kingfisher dives,

the baby cries blood.

Dawn reflects in glass fragments 

poured over grass, the sound of a father

smashing the windshield, 

a beating heart. 

Rachael Ikins is a 2016/18 Pushcart, 2013/18 CNY Book Award nominee, 2018 Independent Book Award winner, & 2019 Vinnie Ream & Faulkner poetry finalist.  2021 Best of the Net nominee, 2023 2nd place winner Northwind Writing Competition. A Syracuse University graduate. 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.