Cancelled

She tells me I am
Cancelled
Forever gone from her life
And those of her friends
Who think they are special
Better than the rest
Way better than me
In my frumpy gymsuit
And zero brand collars
No penny in my loafers
Much less fancy tags
From places I can’t pronounce

She tells me I am
Cancelled
Not among the invited few
With privileges to enter
No member number by my name
To celebrate a marriage
Play a volley of tennis
Swing a new driver on wet grass
Race against time in a private lane
On routine morning laps
That anesthetize life
For the next generation

She tells me I am
Cancelled
My child not smart enough
For lavish play circles
Skilled in violin or dance
Ivy League study trips
To Kathmandu or Tokyo
Shopping sprees in big cities
Filled with faces of a different kind
On shores not of our making
Horses race to the finish line
Await the golden prize

She tells me I am
Cancelled
Undeserving of her anointed
Self-importance as though
My gymsuit remains baggy
Shoes tattered and socks worn
Running on empty streets
Curbs with no master
To slow me at red lights or stop signs
Before dawn cracks open her window
Enough to see the hospital walls
Ahead in the darkened alley

She tells me I am
Cancelled
Uncertain who resides behind
The mask of protection from
A March madness that seeps
Into Earth’s seams
Slows its rotation
Halts splashes in the waves
Stops shiny rings on young fingers
Hopeful of a future that may disappear
She remains unaware
Lost in old reruns to mark time in place

She tells me I am
Cancelled
Waves her black pastic in my face
To let me know she pays for the best
Most famous doctor on his way
To save her skin from everyone else
Who sneezes with aching brains
Scarred lungs and seared hearts
Like hers left from years of ugliness
Too selfish to consider the value
Of what frienship might be
If she chooses to look

She tells me I am
Cancelled
As I wipe droplets from her sweaty brow
Insert fluids into her bulging veins
Ignore her delirium as nonsense
Spews from her crusty lips partnered
With the venom of her kind
Gasping for air and life all at once
Retreat from the past
Act in the now
Save the woman from herself
Save myself, too

I tell her she is
Cancelled
God knows we tried our best
Gave all we could
Against all odds
Isolation, ventilator and
Life-saving drugs aside
The same outcome
Her daughter cries
I discard my gloves in a red bag
And move to the next room
Another life cancelled

–Victoria Emmons, copyright, 2020

A Prayer for Cold Feet

Do not set foot
into a black limousine.
A ride through empty streets
makes the dream real.

No pretend toe tag,
coroner’s signature required.
Son rescues a wedding ring
from a burial far too deep.

Well-placed calls to
sisters, brothers and daughters.
Search for an American flag
to drape across a wooden coffin.

Images of sixty-some years
pasted to a display board
filled with silly grins
at milestone occasions.

Give me a handkerchief,
please. Be there for me,
you, a witness to
love, family, legacy.

Write your name in a book
to remember celebrants
for a friend, father, grandpa,
brother, husband, lover.

Shoe pinches my toe
with each step toward
sympathetic arms outstretched,
pinches my heart.

If the shoe hurts
I don’t have to wear it.
Allow me, dear Lord,
to live with cold feet.

—Victoria Emmons, © 2017
For Karen

Bones in my Bed

Soft whimpers break the
silence of my room,
the only sound beyond your
breathing, the rhythm of
your chest undulating like
an ocean wave.

My toes find their way
under the sheets,
rearranging blankets
and a slippery bedspread
always askew.

Aches that appear only
at night rise up as
twists and turns remind
me of my sixth decade.

You are there, as my friend
forever loyal, cluttering
my bed with your bones.

–Victoria Emmons, 2017

The Hour

The hour approaches, requires decisions to be made,
choices that will change the course of time,
forever alter your world and hers.
Mine, too.

The minute hand on the clock inches forward ever so softly without
a sound, without a warning of what is to come when that hand
strikes the hour, the hour of change. The hour you change into
someone else.

At six o’clock every day, the minute hand signals your time
to become a man I do not know. Monsieur numéro deux.
Smart at first, funny and suave, le Monsieur
slides into his role with ease.

Master of your own universe, master of what flows into your life,
into your mouth and what flows out of it. Join the party.
Forget whatever must be forgotten.
Be the life you do not lead.

The clock strikes seven, sixty minutes past the bewitching hour
of thoughtful worry about what to do. You lose track of time.
No meaning, no measure. Only the taste of decision lingers
on your tongue.

Indecision, the hand strikes again, this time for naught. Cheeky.
Lose what you have gained. Want what you do not want.
Have what you do not have. Temptation speaks.
Join the party.

Love hangs in the midst of it all, holds your heart close, drowned out
by the sound of indecision. Careful, mate. The party beckons.
Open your eyes. Reveal the party lie. Face truth. Become the original you.
Do not join the party.

–Victoria Emmons, 2017

L’Hiver (Winter)

Falling, falling, more snow falling on tables and chairs,
sidewalks and streams upon which I can no longer walk.
I am falling, too, as icy footsteps crush my head
and blur my vision to avoid seeing truth.

L’hiver. La saison m’amuse. 

Winter hides blemishes so easily. Covers the raspberry bush
where red blood once ran along my fingertips, so rich and
delicious, thorns made blunt by cold. Snowflakes fall as soft
as feathers floating in the wind, sparking joy and persistence.

L’hiver. La saison me chatouille.

Stairways and roads disappear into Mother Nature’s
white coverlet. She allows no one to pass beyond her cloak
for fear of getting lost. Never to be found again, and thus
clinging to all that I know inside the warmth of my thoughts.

L’hiver. La saison m’apporte de la joie.

Underneath it all lies expectancy, hope, renewal, new
beginnings, a battle. Cold prefers to conquer all, win over
spring’s desire to procreate. She lingers well beyond her
usefulness, clinging to possibilities.

L’hiver. La saison me rend mécontente.

Sustenance found in withered root vegetables, tin cans and
the last bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon. Meal fit for a queen.
Wedding soup on sale. Tacos, size small,
to be filled with whatever remains in the meat drawer.

L’hiver. La saison me rend triste.

Some will survive, will live to see another bright morning
of rose buds and bees. Not all will see the trees push out new
leaves, create shade once again to lounge beneath and write
poetry on a red checkered cloth placed neatly on the grass.

L’hiver. La saison me coupe le souffle.

Eggs become a way of life. Toast and lingonberry jam,
a proper cup of tea in the morning as no sun reveals itself.
Day moves into café au lait and settles upon darkness
and Malbec, ruminating about the journey of life.

L’ hiver. La saison du malheur.

Listen to what he has to say. No greater tragedy than he
who prefers the cold side of life when warmth awaits in the
shadows. Precious gifts are his in a smiling look-alike face
that sports a perpetual black moustache.

L’hiver. La saison me tue.

Icicles fall, one by one, in chilly drips on frozen bushes and
melting driveways, akin to my melting heart. Save him. Save
me. Awaken the ache of tragedy and scorn, embarrassment
and shame, throw it out the frosty window of hope.

Le Printemps. La saison des poètes et mécontents.


–Victoria Emmons, Copyright 2017

Grâce à mon éditeur Mustapha Seladji.
Photography by Victoria Emmons.

Birthday Boxes

Three candles and chocolate cake
Crowned with vanilla ice cream
Balloons flutter and bob in the air
Too high to salvage

A young girl mouthes “Hi Daddy” in silence
Surrounded by a windy Hawaiian day
And friends around the birthday table
One sister on her right, another her left

The colorful scene on a bright morning
Forever captured in a 16-millimeter tin
When Mother baked specialties to please
And tied boxes with pretty bows

A perfect moment savored for all time
Until the next year arrives in glorious fashion
And another and another until finally
Surprise at number seventeen

Twelve friends hiding in a room
Offer sudden smiles, song and love
A pile of presents to open
Music and dancing fill the air

Fifty years, a second surprise
Colleagues appear unannounced
Claiming they knew not the day
The same as seventeen, only older

Laughter, gin and candles play
In the twilight of life
Gazing at photos that must be me
A younger, more attractive version

Each year, I succumb to the day
That I chose to enter the world
Bake my own cake, sweet frosting on top
Blow out the last candles

—Victoria Emmons, copyright 2017

Saint Tropez

Et puis un jour 
Mon cher ami 
Je serai vieille 
Et toi aussi 

Faisons l’amour 
Sous les étoiles 
Encore une fois 
Entouré par les voiles 

Parlons de nous 
Sans peur de larmes 
Mon beau visage 
Sous ton charme 

Tu m’as fait rire 
Tu te rappelles
Tu avais dansé 
Me tenant dans tes bras 

Je me rappelle 
Quand on dansait 
Dans la nuit sombre 
A Saint Tropez 

Tu m’as fait 
Me larmoyer 
Pour voir la mer 
En colère 

Mais nous chantions 
Comme toujours ensemble
Jamais en solitaire 
Nos coeurs tout proches

Embrasse-moi
Merveilleux amant 
L’un à l’autre 
Le désir est nôtre

Et ce jour-là 
Mon cher ami 
Je serai vieille 
Et toi aussi 

–Victoria Emmons © 2014


Morning of a Different Kind

Wet nose nudges me
In the morning
Tells me a new day
Is about to launch

I groan for it is early
My brain not awake
My body too heavy
To face tomorrow

Dawn will not allow me
To linger too long in
The comfort of my pillow
Warmth of my covers

Outside of the bedding
Lies grief and pain
Too much sorrow
An empty world

I hide in my blanket
A castle of safety
Far away from
Impending storms

Wet nose a memory
A mere dream
Of what was
Will be no more

So on this day
This new year
Mourning
Of a different kind

In memory of Allie, 2001-2014

–Victoria Emmons, © 2014

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