The First Time

The first time
I saw my own eyes
staring out from
behind your sweet face,
a mirror of self-love
unencumbered by years
of doubt, sweat, tears.

That first time,
the only time
I saw you
before she took
you away
to a better life.

–Victoria Emmons, 2017

Dedicated to all the mothers 
who had to give up their children.

Measuring Love

Fat, white flakes cover rooftops, fence lines
Rain upon sidewalks and parked cars
Plant themselves in mountains of cloud-like splendor
Snow painting a merry Christmas Day

Bright sky at midnight, enough reflection to guide Santa
And his reindeer to our home where children sleep
As grandmother lies eyes open and in wait
For laughter and expectation to fill the morning light

Check the empty plate for cookie crumbs
And leftover drops of milk, evidence of parental love
While children confirm today is the day, finally
Yes, dear Alex, Christmas has arrived

Presents bear his name, a word he can spell at three
His sister’s name, too, three letters he reads aloud
On a tag that hangs from a golden package
Wrapped with silver twine and sparkly stars

Help Zoe open her gifts, dear boy, you know how
She yet too young to rip paper and bows
He willing and eager to obey
Tears into each gift for baby sister

Delve into the unknown, discover what resides inside a box
Find out what hides within a heart, a soul
My decision to move, leave all that is known
Leave behind a life, a friend, a sunny world

The real gift is me, dear children, nearby you now
Far from the warmth of a California coastline
To the land of slips on the ice, long winters
Snow button in my car, four-wheel drive

The day after gifts revealed, wrapping paper gone
Two feet of snow to shovel from my deck
Under a clear, pink Boxing Day sky
Measuring love in twenty-four inches

–Victoria Emmons  © 2016

The Box

Thirty years
More or less
Tumble away
In an instant

Tiny red sneakers
“Left” written
On one toe
“Right” the other

White tee-shirt
Snaps at the shoulder
Easier to slip
Over a wiggly head

Matching series of
Exercise books
A backwards five
Plus a rounded six

Smiley faces on
Stick bodies stand
In a crayon land of
Perpetual rainbows

Pink, smocked dress
Seldom worn
Still like new

Stuffed kangaroo
Carries joey
In her pocket
Warm and safe

Red corduroy
Slightly faded
Suits a small jacket
Quite stylish

Tap dance costume
With twirling skirt
Missing one blue
Sequined arm band

Four letters glued
On a volleyball shirt
Spell champion
For that year

Note cards with
College logo
Embossed on fine
Paper stock

Four corners of a hat
Frame a black square
Upon which a tassel
Crowns success

My Little Ponies
In a zip-locked tomb
Emerge to neigh with
The next generation

–Victoria Emmons, copyright 2015


Random communiques appear,
Signal a familiar ding at all hours
To make me feel important, feel loved
In an otherwise ordinary life
Of early morning battles with my cat,
Both of us stressed over boxes.

Headlines selected daily by news editors
At The Washington Post or NBC Bay Area
Foist themselves upon me, assuring
Intelligent conversation with friends
Mourning the loss of a kind sheriff who tried
In vain to help a drowning victim.

My realtor asks about furniture, do I want any 
Of the beds laid in, chairs sat upon,
Tables eaten at by children growing into
Adulthood as their parents age in place,
Now selling out for a condo in Hawaii
And margaritas on a black sand beach.

Carly Fiorina needs my help, as do
A host of others scratching and clawing
To reach the very top of the world,
Earn the right to pin a medal on a hero
Or start a war with China, perhaps Iran, or
Unknown corners of the Earth yet to be found.

An invitation to breakfast in September when
Graduates of a Chamber Leadership Class
Offer pats on the back to neophytes
Only starting out, eager to become what
You are, what looks like success from 
Their vantage point, if they only knew.

FaceBook comments on whatever was said
That day of frivolity with photos taken in jest
And posted for all the world to see when
They should have been deleted before 
The submit button was pressed but
Could we have known the outcome.

Six clutter-busting tips to solve my problem,
Accumulation of life’s debris as it piles
High with unread copies of The Economist,
London Review of Books and Bon Appetit
Each crowding my mind for the little space left
To compete with collections of unlit candles.

Attachments carry an offer of employment 
Eagerly awaited after interviews, visits and
Proper conversations on goals and benefits,
An airplane trip away to the north where new
Friends will be made, new rooms to decorate await,
Life promises to be fulfilled or at least chronicled.

Neighbors write about a vacation to the east, so
Keep watch over their house while they are gone,
And by the way, did you get the job? Have you
Heard anything about paying for the asphalt?
Did you ever get your garage sale organized?
What did the house across the street sell for?

Contractor inquires about a check not yet received
For painting, building, repairing a bathroom,
Replacing a balcony, renewing a home to be
Lived in by someone else, except the same 
Sparrows that come back in the spring, as they
Always do along with the deer and bats.

A receipt for $3.99 to continue iCloud storage,
Small price to pay for false security that precious
Possessions will never be stolen or lost 
To thieves who lurk in CyberSpace, followed
By announcements about new data breaches
In the government and my health insurer.

Nothing in my e-mail speaks of love, no sweet
Words to arouse my sense of desire save
The Poem-A-Day from The Poetry Foundation
That graces my inbox regularly, yet today
“Enough” by Ellen Bass is about death,
But also about love of family and self.

Then love arrives electronically with two words
That ring in my ears, two simple sounds that
My brain allows me to recreate exactly as spoken
For more than 30 years, words taught over time
Part of a lesson in communication essential to life
A single key to my existence … “Hi, Mom!”

—Victoria Emmons, copyright 2015

Same. Same. Same.

Polka dot dresses
Pink bows
In our hair
My baby
And me
What shall we wear?

Same. Same. Same, Mommy
We are the same.

Frilly blue gowns
Frizzy red hair
My little girl
And me
What shall we wear?

Same. Same. Same, Mommy
We are the same.

Black mascara
Bandanas to share
My young lass
And me
What shall we wear?

Same. Same. Same, Mommy
We are the same.

Long, white veil
Everyone stares
Pretty bride
And me
What shall we wear?

Same. Same. Same, Mommy
We are the same.

Wrinkly, brown skin
Curly, black hair
Your baby
And you
What shall you wear?

Same. Same. Same, Mommy
We are the same.

— Victoria Emmons ©2013


How much is enough
To show her you care
How many times
must you weep

How much is enough
For a father to say
He loves his child
More than life itself

How much is enough
For a daughter to hear
That her papa is grieving
Her loss from his world

How much is enough
To tell her you love her
And kiss her brow
As tears wet her cheek

How much is enough
To say you regret
The pain and the prison
That one moment caused

How much is enough
For peace to restore
And pride to erase
The memory of a face

–Victoria Emmons, © 2014