Mostly Me

Frankly it was summer
and hot.
Air wouldn’t move
and fences were blocked
so no one could enter
even if you didn’t
want to go inside.

I did. I wanted to see
what his world had been like,
all hundred or more years of it.
There he was, a stone general
frozen in thought
astride a white mount
blackened by time.

The pressure
weighed upon him,
I am sure of it.
Please the family,
children need bread,
a new nation cannot breathe
without a leader.

Easy enough to live
on a peaceful farm,
ignore the critics
and haters,
ones who shame
into leadership
those who might win.

Oh, cousin, why did
we fight to defend
a way of life
gone for the ages,
too radical
for our time,
but not yours.

Conflict need come
to an end, they say,
no war between us
or remains of vast
valleys full of blood,
soldiers no more,
only crosses on a hill.

You watch from atop
your loyal stead
new soldiers who
never learned history,
nor learned from it,
mistakes made and
lives lost, teach anew.

They do not listen,
nor will they know
that you remain a leader
teaching lessons from your day,
remind them of wrongs
gone by, not wiped away,
remembered for a reason.

Dear cousin, show them
from your Traveler’s perch
so no one will forget,
that our battles
from home to home,
brother to brother
must surely end.

–Victoria Emmons, 2017

Resurrection 

I feel the warmth of your arms surround me
as years wash away, a long moment of grief
expressed in a hug too tight for a child,
a man without a father.

History powerful enough to tear down
walls of time belies reason.
A sepia photograph reminds of
bygone youth, shared play,
picnics at the zoo. 

Sadness and joy clash on this day,
memories well up in your eyes and mine.
Tales to tell, remembrances, laughter and love.
Shrimp, crayfish and oysters
on the table before us.

Thundering rain upon heavy limbs
laden with green resurrection ferns.
A damp night of conversation and thoughtful
stories, but no campfire.

Spring awaits summer, hot and sticky,
sweat follows the length of your temples,
beads on your forehead.
Love beats in your heart.
Family swells in your mind.

A homecoming of sorts, we gather to mourn,
remark the change in lines on our faces,
spill our absent lives into one another’s.
Four score years should not pass
before shared warmth.

Believing the other will always exist,
somewhere in the annals of our history,
part of the natural order of our universe,
a comfort zone to our souls,
does not make it so.

Create a pact, dear ones.
Share more of life in
years to come.
Let’s not wait for
the next family funeral.

—Victoria Emmons, May 2017

For cousins

Passing

The invisible line is cast across the river,
across the canyon, or the ages, obstacles
that find us as we travel dusty roads, always
searching, forever unsure. Pleasure in
windblown branches hobbled against the slant
of a craggy mountain, predicted to lose,
yet they blossom, somehow gaining strength
from light and the occasional storm.

Rain is approaching current location
and is expected within thirty minutes.

The line reaches out, centuries compelled
to forge a lineage unbroken. The invisible line.
Our heritage. We cannot see them, nor they us.
Mere black and white images painted by the
hand of a craftsman or a Brownie Instamatic.
They smile or laugh, more often
furrow brows within the frames of their lives.
History recorded in a frown, perhaps too serious
the thought of the invisible line.

Rain is falling now.

The burden remains. Casting the line is all
too frightening, creates a link in a chain that
cannot be undone. Populate. Procreate. Pass.
The cycle begs for renewal. And so we perform.
In our innocence and duty, the people perform,
create the invisible line that stretches from
one generation to another. The line sends all
our oneness to the next and the next,
on down the line.

The wind blows harder.

Never an end of the line, just a passing
of the wonderment of life, love, creation,
knowledge, laughter, responsibility, inspiration,
thoughtfulness, caring, tolerance, joy, simplicity.
Never an end. Always a new beginning.
The invisible line is not broken, merely
reflected in the crystal blue eyes of a child,
the exploration of a scientific discovery,
the digital painting of a sorrowful face.

Black clouds ahead.

Cast your line. An ocean awaits. Sandy shores
reside amongst the clouds, no matter their color
or shape. The line must be cast. Too late for
indecision. Stretch out your heart to the next
in line. Leave your trace of glory to be retold
in story after story. The blessed line.
Follow it and find the softest space in Heaven,
find those who climbed in before you.

Rain clearing by tomorrow morning.

–Victoria Emmons, May 2017


for Uncle Jim

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.

Benched

Resting on a makeshift
bench, stair steps to a porch
where imagination thrives.

In bounds. Our court, a driveway
whose lines dictate where
we can dribble, run and play.

Out of bounds. I teach you
the difference so you’ll know.

Too small to reach the hoop now,
some day you’ll make it look easy.

Tall and strong, smart and strategic
you are, my lad.

Bounce the ball to your teammate.
Keep defenders at bay. Run.
Breathe. Rest. Do it again.

Our basketball rolls into the snow,
wet, muddy and needing new air.
We play anyway in our
imaginary March Madness.

–Victoria Emmons, 2017

Dedication: This one is for you, Alex.

Hearts and Flowers

A single red rosebud shares a vase with purple statice
My only valentine flowers of the season,
A sweet surprise to me, delivered by hand
With a smile to melt me into an unseemly puddle.

Does he know? Can he feel the others?
Other flowers from the past that cannot compete
With these beauties, carefully chosen
Searching for a home and mine is waiting.

Quiet takes over for now, not long ago
A splendid torrent of noise replenished my heart
Hid the pain if even for a few hours
Brightened an otherwise cloudy day.

He must know my love will last forever
Will never go away, no matter what day
No matter the hour, the year, the second
I will always love my boy.

–Victoria Emmons ©2017

Clean

I remember the 13 x 9 x 2 aluminum version
Carving out perfect brownies for a crowd
Or the glass model 8 x 6 x 2, the smaller size
For the rare few who stayed up late

I remember baked-on grease forever embedded
Into the fabric of the pans, creating their own
Modern artwork in a chaotic kitchen
The result of motherhood gone awry

Baking meant sustenance, but more than that
It revealed ingenious fortitude, cleverness and pride
Combined with creativity that surpassed all else
I remember that creativity, that strength

And I remember the love that went into each egg
Fried into a perfectly shaped circle inside a slice of bread
A circle that we called breakfast, along with crisp bacon
And always a glass of whole milk or juice, our choice

I remember taking turns at the bar, slipping onto a warm stool
In front of a previously occupied plate still wet with yellow yolk
That she shoved aside to replace with a new, warm toad
One that would be consumed in time to catch a school bus

I remember the burnt days, too, clouded with emotion
Fervent spirit doused for an hour or two, yet
Toad-in-a-hole breakfasts kept flying out of her kitchen
Into our hearts and souls, all four of us children

I remember her pans as I retrieve my own small one
From the dishwasher, not as clean as I would like
The glass still living with some of last night’s meal
My carelessness, the wrong machine setting

I remember we had no dishwasher then, a luxury,
Washed by hand, each greasy skillet or brownie pan
Thus why the grease remained, no doubt, what strength
Do children have to scrub away the toughest stains?

Tools at my disposal, I begin to work, fingers dry and sore
From steel wool combined with cleaning powder that
Lasts as long as I do to see every last speck of memory stain
Removed forever, or until the next chicken Marsala bakes

–Victoria Emmons, ©2017

Circus Dog

Jump, bark, challenge 
My authority
As you enter my life and 
Try to take over

Just a dog from the 
Animal shelter 
With no place to call home
Much like me

No place to call home
Drifting everywhere 
No roots to plant
Or debts to repay

Only the circus
Accepts us 
who are different, strange
And demand rights

Yet there you stood
Begging for adoption
When everything was against us
Twilight seemed dim 

You worked out okay
Me, too, since night was day
And you wanted to rule
But you learned

So why not stay 
Circus Dog
Stay until dawn and play
With the befuddled cat

I did not know you
Would appear so sweet 
Cocking your head to one side
To draw me in, to love you

And that I did, so you won 
The game we play
Each night as you demand 
I throw your toy for a fake pursuit

–Victoria Emmons, copyright 2017

Lost and Found

Remember the day, the moment, the loss
Perplexing, annoyed, forlorn and cross

Locked out of life, transportation and gold
Keys to the world have clearly been sold

All that I cherish resides on a ring
That circle gives access to everything

Late summer drew nigh, I prepared to depart
Thirty years of a place that won over my heart

How could I misplace so important a treasure
In the chaos of packing and farewell pleasure

My search through trash cans high and low
Revealed nothing but remnants of junk let go

Pause for a moment to think and review
Each step I had taken the previous two

Days of forgetfulness and check-off notes
Hundreds of details to fill up my totes

No wonder my key ring was missing in action
When months of planning had been a faction

I needed those keys to my house, to my car
Without them I would never go very far

Keys to my storage unit, keys to my bank
Keys to a life that seemed suddenly dank

Lost forever they were, I began to assess
My options for moving ahead with this mess

Costly new car keys, remote control, too
LoJack to replace, so much to do

Buy a new storage lock, notify the teller
Make sure car keys are there for the seller

Thank heaven for duplicate keys all around
Searching my house for where they might be found

Three hundred more dollars to replace a car key
Seems way more than needed for befuddled old me

But cost me it did in both money and grief
As I abandoned my thoughts of a mischievous thief

Surely I was the culprit of this mystery distraction
Own up to my faults and egregious reaction

I set about fixing the damage I had done
Finding or buying keys one by one

Eighteen months passed by, a thousand lifetimes ago
Lost keys were forgotten in favor of snow

Then holidays arrived, an invitation to stay
At the home of my daughter not too far away

I leaped at the chance to wake up Christmas Day
So near to grandchildren who giggle and play

My bag packed in seconds, my car filled with toys
I tackled snowdrifts to join sweet girls and boys

When morning arrived, little footsteps awakened me
As grandchildren stood in awe of the Christmas tree

Quickly washed my face, brushed my hair and teeth
Grabbed my turquoise robe and shoes to warm my feet

Reached top of the stairs, eager to join family crew
Hands dropped into my pockets to hear a jingle or two

Fate intervened, my old robe revealed a prize
A metal circle of keys that belied my eyes

Lost …. then finally found myself, if I may
Puzzle solved at last on this Christmas Day

–Victoria Emmons, © img_07202016

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