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.

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

The Summit

My open window reveals
a spring snowfall on the summit,
a fog obscuring white caps that
sleep forever at the highest point.

Misty rain turns to snow rising atop
my world. Nature paints a distinct line
around the mountains, a clear delination
between elevated snowflakes and freezing rain.

The season unpredictable, as is my life.
New growth attempts to bloom,
struggles to release itself, only to be
thwarted by a late wintry mix.

My own summit turns to snow, like the mountain.
I stare not out a window, but into a mirror
to observe its unpredictable journey
atop my crown.

White strands now invade a thick forest
once chestnut brown. As the mountain evolves,
so must I. My struggle with time will not
outlive the hillsides.

–Victoria Emmons, 2017

Benched

Resting on a makeshift
bench, stair steps to a porch
where imagination thrives.

In bounds. Our court, a driveway
whose lines dictate where
we can dribble, run and play.

Out of bounds. I teach you
the difference so you’ll know.

Too small to reach the hoop now,
some day you’ll make it look easy.

Tall and strong, smart and strategic
you are, my lad.

Bounce the ball to your teammate.
Keep defenders at bay. Run.
Breathe. Rest. Do it again.

Our basketball rolls into the snow,
wet, muddy and needing new air.
We play anyway in our
imaginary March Madness.

–Victoria Emmons, 2017

Dedication: This one is for you, Alex.

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

If eyes could tell

If life resided in darkness, eyes disappeared into
caves where feelings navigate the world
amongst dangers of the sea,
who would be  
me?

If skies were never blue, only void of color and light,
causing fear in a vast unknown universe,
where would flowers
grow?

If bumps in the night, the ever present night,
were all that could be seen for miles of highway,
what road would we
take?

If life mirrored that of a blind cavefish,
born with vision lost to age and a film of
skin, a cataract of sorts,
how would we
see?

If age dissipated vision, unable to differentiate
black or white, left or right, male or female,
rich or poor, young or old, half or whole,
when would discrimination
vanish?

If life had no pigment, simply blank void where
reliance on touch, sound,
emotion guided every step,
could we escape larger prey for hundreds of thousands of
years?

If we escaped our fears, learned to love blindness,
to embrace what lives in the dark, to lie side by side,
skin to skin, smile to smile,
could we not better survive, like an ancient blind
fish?

–Victoria Emmons, 2017