Unfair

Unfair that I should
lay back
on a comfortable chaise
next to a clear, blue
pool of running water,
a sound to calm my nerves,
steady my heart,
settle my head,
reconcile what is left
of a rather long life.

Unfair that a mother
should grieve
her young son,
a father should
bring his daughter
home to Pakistan
in a coffin,
a birthday party
should be cancelled
in favor of a funeral,
the boy turned 17
still hugs his
creation laying silent
on an art room floor.

Unfair that death
to others is the answer
to self loathing,
revenge the choice
for an unkind word,
no matter the tool —
fist to the nose,
trigger to the head,
stab to the heart —
killing the answer.

Unfair that funerals
beget more funerals,
a killing ground for
the lonely, desperate,
duped, a-political
turned fanatic,
the baby born
with no mother,
no love, no compassion,
no enthusiasm for life.

Unfair that life
is over when
it is over.
No second thoughts.
No second chance to rewind,
reconsider the action,
hate, killing,
the tragedy
about to unfold.
Always one,
that one sad person
ready to pull the trigger.

—Victoria Emmons, 5/20/18

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

Couples

Cup without a saucer
First name without a last
Activist without a handmade sign
Monkey without a banana to eat
Home without a state
State without a name
Hand without a finger
Nowhere is home
No place is mine
Where a heart resides in peace
Accepted by rulers
who prey upon strangers
and do not tolerate salt
without pepper.

—Victoria Emmons, © 2018

Praha Notes

Stumble on stones
that speak to my feet
seven centuries past
Too long ago to recall
A love gone by.

Sky aided by clouds
darkened in an instant
to cool a steamy day,
raindrops and thunder
fluffed into marshmallow
dreams by midday.

Your gifts linger, a
72-hour metro ticket
takes me on a red train
to green line, then
yellow line to find Zlicin
through the park to Zitna.

A hot day adorns
your head, along with
a baseball cap to keep
the sun away, a
thousand-koruna note,
gift for a weary traveler.

Franz Kafka, Adolf Born,
blond Chrystina in an Alfa Romeo
points out the world’s largest
castle, streets below
teeming with selfies and
a car that attracts attention.

Czech list of things to do,
dancing house beckons
as bridge traffic lessens on
way-finding maps to
a jazz club of singers,
drums, and saxophone tunes.

A kiss on the hand, a wave
goodbye from one train to another
as I dine alone next to
Charles Bridge, me and
my glass of red Bourguignon
from France, no Czech beer.

Laughter of child’s play
on monkey bars at a nearby park
makes music for my single dinner,
void of smiling Irish eyes,
no direction to
my last evening in Prague.

Lost in colors, I search
for the yellow ice cream cone
to lead me out of the
Namesti maze toward the Vystad
where I will drift
back to normalcy, if I can.

–Victoria Emmons
copyright 2017, Prague, CZ

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

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.

Montana Metal

Copper glistens in deference to brilliant sunlight. It wires itself around our lives, brings ease and comfort, a combination of access and heat. Twin to the cook pot, seething atop a blue fire, transmitting a menu plan. Copper art hangs in the window, curled around like a serpent digesting amber glass balls that rearrange light on the wall.

Copper joy, copper light, copper theft for a price. Steal thirst for a century. Crush a society carved in the west out of nothing but a few battles with the locals. Copper makes friends. And enemies. A golden glow requires a good polish now and then. The favored color of an old mascot hat for the football team.

Dig. Mine. Discover. Bend. Shape. Create. A bottle of copper hair upon my head brings attention no matter what. Metal required to fend off compliments or long gazes with dangling open mouths. She is copper-colored, they say. Good or bad. Friend or foe. Better to be copper-colored than steel gray.

–Victoria Emmons, 2017

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.

Fifteen Minutes ’til Midnight

In fifteen minutes you and I will turn thirty.
That long ago, so much time vanished.
Fifteen minutes disappearing like thirty years.
At midnight, all those years will have passed.

That day we met, we cued up for good reason.
A boat too full let us laugh together instead,
share a beer at the hotel bar,
become friends and lovers for life.

Ten minutes remain until thirty years arrive.
We can soon celebrate a milestone,
worth a bottle of your best champagne.
Bubbles make me laugh. So do you.

I hear your laughter ring in my head. Yet
how heavy it seems. I carry that laughter with me.
Its joy and its burden. A love that will not end.
A memory that will not cease to exist.

Five more minutes and our thirty-year anniversary
becomes real. Aunt Wilma said thirties were the
best years. Best for everything. Her wisdom stays
with me. But after thirty years, a void appears.

Not the same without you, my love, despite the hour.
Remember our anniversary, my calendar tells me.
It is now done. Check you off my to-do list.
I remembered. No one else did.  

–Victoria Emmons, 16 May 2017