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

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

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

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

Light Bulb

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Halogen lives an eternity with
A halo
Dies with an oily thumbprint, he warns.
Wear gloves and do not touch the light bulb.
Do not touch. Do not turn on. Do not love.

Tall ladders are dangerous, can kill if you fall, but
Necessary to remove an old light and bring in something brighter
Easier to see in my living room.
Easier to see that love lies in a light bulb that
Burned out.

To replace a light requires research, visits to the hardware store
Long conversations with a young man who knows about light bulbs.

Too young to understand
All that lies in replacing a light bulb, changing a life
For eternity with one simple act
Yet not a simple fall. Not a simple love.

Tiny yet bright, the faded shower light
Unnoticed in the rain
As I cleanse myself in the darkness of life
Until one morning you changed the light bulb.
You changed me.

Do not touch. Do not turn on. Do not love.
I ignore the warnings.
The bulb burns too brightly to refuse
Light, laughter, love.

Tall ladders can kill if you fall.
Light bulbs burn out eventually.
No halo lasts forever.

Fall then.
Fall hard, but please don’t kill.
Do not touch. Do not turn on. Do not love.

Promises made to last
Rules made to break
Light and love
Burned out.

–Victoria Emmons, copyright 2017