Maria’s Tuscan Salad

Leave me alone, Maria
Take your vinaigrette
Capers and red peppers
And be done with it

Leave me be, Maria
Your salad of artichokes
Extra virgin olive oil
Makes me be a virgin

Leave me crying, Maria
That I lost the tomatoes
This growing season
Never more to slice

Leave me still, Maria
As I grieve the Kalamatas
That once graced my bowl
Now only Bermuda remnants

Leave me ripe, Maria
With hearts of palm
Mozzarella cheese curds
And heirlooms for home

–by Victoria Emmons, 2014

from “Word Movers”, An Anthology of Creative Writings by Seniors, City of Oakland, 2014



Late Night Write

Why is writing a late-night affair?
Riding the waves of darkness and sorrow
I must right all the ills of the world
In a single paragraph, a simple poem,
A combination of letters to make sense of life
Or no cents at all since writing never fills my pocket,
Only my brain with wonder and my soul with thought.

I cannot live without it, this craft I have adopted
So late in life, hidden inside of me a century or more
Fearful of escaping so as not to be discovered as weak
Yet more than a week to find myself in so many words
And letters of encouragement from those who read,
Those who also cry out in the night for acceptance
And love, since that is what matters most to us all.

Write, write, write, my dearest companions, my colleagues,
Compose yourselves in beautiful harmony or ubiquitous agony
Over whatever life brings to you, and whatever you record
For all time, for rhyme is certain to please your senses
And tickle the rhythms of your life in ways you never knew
Or never considered could be, while you search for
What is good and merciful and beautiful out there.

Accept your gifts, share with the world what is in your head
Before you are dead and your talents die with you.
We, you and me, are careful to say what we say in a way
That does not harm, but makes us think, contemplate
All the horrors and the beauty of the world as it turns
On its axis bringing access to air and water and life itself
Training God’s creatures to react to its constant turning.

Turning and churning our words on the page must follow
A pattern to reveal the sensitive caverns of our inner corps
As we create a mood, develop a scene, and tell our stories
Of strength and loss, of uncertainty and challenge, of tragedy.
We speak of love, of sorrow, of bridges to cross and roads to build
The core of our very being is ripped open in a post to the world
That may never be seen or may become a scene in our obituary.

Words connect my fingers to thought patterns that pound
Into something strong and wonderful that lasts for posterity
So my children and my grandchildren and those that come after
Will know that there was once a race of thinkers and writers
And spellers and rhymers who did not need a robotic prompt
Or a creative idea log or even a spell check program to assure
The words made sense, to assure that humans would still exist.

–Victoria Emmons, 2014

Never Ever Land

Rage washes over me
Like the river on the rocks
In a Montana woodside walk
Through the chapters of my life

A wistful rage if there is one
This deep acceptance of what is
And not what I dream it to be
In my world of friendship and love

Clouds produce tears on my head
Just as I drop tears of regret
Droplets of remorse and sorrow
Of what would never be, nor should

My brain will not think otherwise
As the logical mind speaks truth
Yet my heart plays with fancy
Until it finally cracks in two

So drawn to he who can
Charm the world and me
Into believing him and his lies
Loving each moment of untruth

Like a snake charmer, he curses
Those who fall into his slithering trap
Never to escape the dread
Pain and horror of it all

He lies again and again while smiling
Believers follow his lead to nowhere
Praise and adore him, laugh forever
At his brilliance and polish

Rage lies deep within, seething
Flooding every vessel
Until a poison develops
Moving like fire to my head

Tears and sweat dance cheek to cheek
Seeking solace as they pool in my palm
The sultry heat of summer is
Unbearable for this new reality

Uncertainty is my certain future
A crown of Never Ever Land
To place upon my dripping brow
And hide all the rage inside

–Victoria Emmons
Montana, 2014




poem- stand up

We can fight for education, but until the public really wants it, we will get nowhere. I am a former teacher myself. I was a damn good one, too; but the lackluster system drove me elsewhere into a new profession. When something is free, people perceive it as not too valuable. We are “paying” for education through taxes, of course, but no one really gets the connection these days since so many don’t even pay taxes. And they are not educated enough to understand how the system works. We still have a long way to go to motivate our citizens to give up their TV reality shows and read Dickens or Balzac instead!

Shawn L. Bird

“Why are teachers even bothering to picket,

when you aren’t getting strike pay any more?”

he asked.

I told him it was because teachers are moralists

who are defending democracy

and fair working & bargaining conditions

against a corrupt government:

A government that ignores the court rulings

spends billions of tax payers’ dollars appealing

judgments by the Supreme Court

and the United Nations saying they

are WRONG to steal from our kids.

It will pay billions for a stadium roof,

but will not pay for educating its children.

I told him that in such a war,

pay is a small thing.

We will fight, because if our government

succeeds in destroying OUR union

then every other working person in this province

is in peril.

If OUR contracts can be shredded with impunity,

so can YOURS!

We are fighting for YOUR rights

and for our students’ right to a funded education

against a government with an…

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Fathers share a special place in our hearts. They are our biggest cheerleaders, our toughest critics and our shoulder to cry on when something goes wrong.

They teach us how to drive stick shift, how to pass Algebra and how to change a seed into a blooming flower. They are our heroes. They fight for us. They fight for our country. They take us to swim practice and ballet class. They juggle work, family and making ends meet. They read us a story at bedtime and drop us off at school in the morning. They even let us drive the car sometimes with our friends.

They cry at our weddings. They teach our children about the joys of fishing and life. They become wonderful grandfathers. We remember them forever, even long after they are gone. Their warm hugs remain in our memories and their spirit remains in our hearts, as does their love.

So today, I salute all the fathers who have made their kids better and made the world a better place, too. Thank you, dads.

Fear Not

I am now at the age when death is a reality. While death is ever present even from the time we are young, it somehow looms ever larger as we age…perhaps it is our own destiny that brings everything into perspective. Losing a loved one clarifies a lot.

I lost my father in 1983 and my mother in 1999, so both have been gone for many years. They died sooner than I would have liked, but we cannot change what is. We can only accept and live with it. When my husband died in 2010, it was far more difficult. He was my everyday friend in life, the man who loved me more than life itself. There remains a huge void with his departure from this Earth.

But loss is part of life. We each have a beginning and an end. We cannot escape that. I was at a seminar recently about advance care planning. The instructor asked us each to think about our first encounter with death. Initially, I thought about my grandfather. I was 13 when he died peacefully in my parents’ bedroom. My grandmother opened the front door of our house just as my sister and I were running in laughing after a rousing game of bound-ball in the heat of a sunny Florida afternoon. Her words stunned us.

“He’s gone,” she said curtly. “Your grandfather’s gone.”

My sister and I looked at one another puzzled about the clarity of the message. What did she mean? We tiptoed in the house and as we passed by my mother’s bedroom door, we got a glimpse of Grand-daddy. My mother told us we should say goodbye to him and gave us permission to enter the room. Inching closer to the bed, the finality of it all caused my face to burn bright red. It was the first time I had seen someone dead. He looked very peaceful, as I recall, but definitely not moving or winking his eye at me like he always used to do. He was gone, as my grandmother had said.

That memory spawned yet another and I realized that I had been touched by death even earlier than as a young teen. When I was about nine years old, I lost a kitten. I have always been a cat lover and had kittens from the time I was a young kid, even though my father didn’t like them very much. Our cat had kittens one spring and there were four of them running around the yard since we weren’t allowed to have them indoors. Sometimes I would sneak them into my bedroom at night, but generally they had to survive outdoors. One morning, it was raining hard. I was standing on the front porch looking for my kittens to bring them in from the rain. My father was leaving for work and I knew I could hide them easily. I waved goodbye to him as he darted through the raindrops and got into the car. He turned on the ignition. One of my kittens, trying to get out of the rain, had taken shelter behind the wheel of the car. As Dad backed out of the driveway, I witnessed the death of my sweet, little furry friend, watching as she flipped in the air with the impact of the car, her lifeless body landing flat on the concrete, soaked and dying.

Death makes a lasting impression on us. It helps us realize the beauty of life. It helps us appreciate what we have, those we love, and what is most important. It’s easy to get caught up in the brouhaha of wanting success, love, wealth, or power. In the end, we all die. And what is most important is telling those we love that we love them, we forgive them, and we ask that they forgive us. We want peace and we want to be pain free. And last of all, we do not want to be a burden to our families.

My memories of death include the most recent one of my husband, of course. I was with him when he died, although it was not as I had hoped. We had no hospice. He lay in a sterile hospital bed when the doctor told me he had only a few days to live. But I knew that he was dying. I had seen that for months. One of the mistakes doctors and families make is not calling upon hospice soon enough. The hospice benefit is available for patients with a prognosis of six months or less to live. Had my family been given those six months of care, my husband’s death would have been far more peaceful and my family would have gotten the support we needed both then and afterward as the deepest of all grief begins to take over your life for what seems like years.

My advice to one and all is to consider hospice care much earlier in the process. Time and time again, families tell me that they wish they had known about hospice sooner. It is a wonderful benefit available to those with insurance or not since non-profit hospices care for everyone no matter their ability to pay. CMS (Medicare) covers hospice services, as does other commercial insurances. Ask for it. Don’t wait until 24 hours before your loved one dies. Ask for hospice care months before… when you, your loved one and your family need it the most. It is an amazing benefit. Don’t be afraid of asking for hospice.