Drawers

So simple the design of a drawer,
pull and push, search for something lost,
a ribbon, a jar of ground cloves,
zebra-striped pasta long and narrow,
a green marbled heart meant to
give away, but kept.

Drawers contain books to read, journals
to write, secrets to hide or discover,
an entire family history stored for
at least a decade or more waiting
to hand down to the next generation.

The empty one my least favorite, second drawer
of the tall dresser, the one he used to fill
with socks. Now barren, the drawer’s
cedar wood frame houses a familiar scent
that lingers so I won’t forget.

–Victoria Emmons, 2017

White Flag

Crown of the hillside stretches beyond
imagination farther than vision allows
to a divine world of plenty,
too precious to be mine.

Sparky and I follow the path across
a grassy meadow teeming with life that
foretells spring, falling snowflakes
a reminder that change comes with pain.

Bearable silence surrounds us, stunning and real,
envelopes us as if a cloak of solace has risen up
to engage. We stand amidst Heaven on Earth,
breathing in its glory and wonderment.

Creatures of all colors reside in harmony as sunset
overtakes the day, surpasses our wildest dreams.
Wildlife define their routines as we do ours,
cautious, yet equal, we walk similar paths.

A dozen white flags rise up on the horizon,
quiet and still at first, eyes watch, ears listen,
then tails wave madly, thundering out of fear
down into the valley the herd flies.

We stop, creep closer to the edge, observe the show
as ten or twelve deer race to safer ground.
Sparky raises her own little, white flag in tribute.
In silence, we walk on together, surrender to the hillside.

–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

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

You

What remained of winter washed up into my throat
so you made a cup of strong ginger tea, honey added with lemon.
Your soiled pajamas spun round and round with soap
in a dance that was unexplainable.
Your dance. But I knew why.
Guilt makes you do things.
I needed strong. I needed you.
Your voice faint and mistakenly distant over the wires
even as you stood right next to me.
You hiding. Me guessing.
That game we play over and over.
Maybe I should hide and you guess where.
Hide behind the ache in my lower spine,
hide from the fear buried in my bosom,
hide away the treasures lost to time
and a curvy blonde.
But you stand over me and serve a platter with tea
and sweet chocolate bits.
You convince me to taste you once again.
Insincerity does not become you.

–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

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.

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

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