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

Freeze Frame

Stuck in the age of Covid-19, racing to nowhere except a way out of this box to which the world has been condemned, a prison cell of prevention, or not, for those unlucky thousands who carry coronavirus with them to their graves, leaving the rest of us to worry about droplets lingering for days on Amazon delivery boxes, empty grocery store shelves, dirty gas pump handles, or our own Fido’s nose, even a child’s hand fresh from a playground jungle gym when the real jungle is Mother Earth spinning in all her infected glory, laughing as she twirls leaving that voice message that cries, “I told you so.”

—Victoria Emmons, copyright 2020

Three-Quarters of a Breath

Soft sounds count each breath with
clarity, mindfulness and motion.
Every swell erupts into hope, rises and falls
in fullness, leaving joy as a postscript.

Breathe in to fill three-quarters,
that which is left of a lung, a section
disappeared one sunny morning, a favorite
corner rendered useless by a scalpel.

Pushing air out even harder,
pain shoots down the spine,
suffocates the rib cage and the heart.
But the heart still loves, still smiles.

Life breathes in three-quarter beats,
arouses a heart to sing, a soul to pray,
a mind to dream. Invites love to play
under a delicious full moon.

Count the breaths. One. One-half.
How many birthdays, he asks.
Grandma, that’s a lot of birthdays.
A lot more to come, you say.

Smell a future filled with fresh air,
even in three-quarter beat. Hear the
sound of laughter, the voice of strength
residing in a cage meant to be opened.

Make songs with every breath when
air and music wed as one. Sing for
respite. Sing for hope. Sing for life,
notes attaching to the summer wind.

–Victoria Emmons, May 2017

For Jill.

Buzz

A familiar buzz creates the strange backdrop of my kitchen, and my world. The sound of distress is repeated often in my head, but now it lives. I cannot locate the source. It continues to fill the cool air of an October morning. Where is he? I heard him in pain, buzzing so loudly that I must listen. He wants my attention as he cries for help.

I wait. I must be dreaming, my head repeats. He is gone. He no longer lives on this Earth. But then again, I want to think otherwise. I want to believe the signs that he flew my way six years past. The flutter of his wings upon my cheek. His flight was soft and gentle, aiming for me, for my face. Certain it was he, I broke into laughter. No disrespect, my love, but your wings tickled my nose. Made me smile. I knew it was you, free from pain.

So why now? Why this distress call to me? I look in every room as the sound grows in voice. That buzz remains. I cannot find you. Searching every fold of the house in which I call my home, but not really home since you are not here. Or are you? They tell me I am mad. La Femme Folle. But ’tis only folly, I know. I believe you, mon cher ami. Mon amant, mon amour. I believe you.

And there you are. Upside down, with your tiny wiggling legs. There you are wedged between the bends of a blue kitchen towel. You buzz with vigor, waiting to be freed. Who said a fly should be let free? You chose to be there, mon ami. You wanted to fly, so I let you free. Fly away now, safe to the outside air. Come alive. Don’t die. Keep flying. I love you.

–Victoria Emmons, copyright 2016

Mud

A gift of mud
From a dear friend
Turns my head
In a new direction

Not just any mud,
Of course, since
This mud traveled
Long distances

Through customs
Weighting down an
Already heavy suitcase
Of trinkets and souvenirs

This mud revered
By millions over time
Anecdote for pain
Soothing an ache or two

And now mine
To ease the hurt
Of an aging body
And cloudy mind

The mud draws me
Closer again
Pulls me toward
The clear water

Falls tumble
Over the edge
Like so many
Nights I remember

The sound of the flow
As it eased his pain
Warmth the only remedy
For his affliction

All these years
I could not go
Near the water
Or the memories

Of that huge tub
Filled with pain
And agony
Loneliness and sorrow

At night I hear
The faucet running still
As it was those dark
And deadly nights

Awakening me with
The reality of a cancer
Poisoning life as
We once knew it

The mud equals
Renewal and healing
Fifteen to twenty minutes
Is all it promises

Skin renewed, soft
Gentle kindness
Rinsed away in
Warm waters

I can do this
My aging flesh
Will accept the hot
Pool beneath me

No longer must I hide
From the bathtub of death
When life beckons
Me to play

Ironic somehow
The birth of
This renewal mud
The Dead Sea

—Victoria Emmons © 2015

Hope

Found in more than a thousand places
Hope takes on so many faces.

Will I pass my science test?
Does my father think I’m best?

Will this baby stay alive to
Live nine months and always thrive?

Will the judge be kind to me
Even I when I try to flee?

Will this flower bloom in red
Or only bloom inside my head?

Will I find sweet Allie dog
Lost today amidst the fog?

Will I finish this long race
And, win or lose, accept my place?

Will my love be always there
Even when I need his care?

Will Mom live another day
To smile with me, to laugh and play?

I hope for this, I hope for that
I hope I look good in this new hat.

Hope takes on another face
Hope I keep up this grueling pace.

—Victoria Emmons © 2015

Honey

On the senior pages in my high school yearbook, the quote they chose to put under my picture is: “You can catch more flies with honey than you can with a fly swatter.” It was advice that my mother had always given us and I found that she was right. When kindness is shown, even to those who may not readily seem to deserve it, the reward is always with the giver. So I tried to be nice to everyone and I guess people noticed.

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The Legacy of the Sisters

Be that as it may
They came
With no warning
Just like the cancer

They raked
They cooked
They sat with him
In his loneliness

They laughed
At TV game shows
Puzzled through
NY Times crosswords

They worried
They fretted
They gave their time
And their love

And they brought
The small, white
Plastic trash bags
For the remains

Neatly lining
All five of the
Small, round cans
In the bedroom

They dutifully
Emptied each bag
Once a day
Of its toxic contents

Their legacy
Of love…
And then they
Said goodbye

-Victoria Emmons, © 2011