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.

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

Red Palms

Music chimes a peaceful note from the mouths of children
waving palm fronds to signal triumphant goodness,
line a welcome path for the Master.

Peace be with you.

Tears of joy blend with splattered crimson pews upended
in a rubble of hatred permeating empty minds
determined to crush freedom.

Cry for Egypt.

Red palms scatter the ancient floor of life, open palms
never to breathe again, nailed to a cross of
faith, hope and love.

Cry for the world.

–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

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

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

Longing

I know how to define longing
Feeling it as I do this day
With joyful news that I
Cannot share with you.

Longing to speak with you
To hear your laughter amidst
Guttural sounds that create
Music for my soul.

We now speak only in code
Your message somewhat blank
And mine only hesitant
Lacking in style or craft.

Longing so real that it hurts
A deep, agonizing pain
That makes me want to fly away
To a far-off destination.

I have nowhere to fly
Only stuck in my memories
Lost in dreams gone by
Longing for what will never be.

–Victoria Emmons  © 2016

What to do

Gypsy

When daylight offers
Nothing more than
Funny cat videos
For eight hours

And blinds are meant
To remain shuttered
Food never consumed
Nor books devoured

The real cat awakens me
Her claws prick my neck
Startle me from a dreamland
Of fanciful dancing and love

My anger frightens her and me
She finds solace under a chair
I find it online in a site
Leading me elsewhere

A story on detergent choices
Liquid, powder or pacs
To clean the oils and scents
He left on my sheets