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

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.

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

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

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

Lost and Found

Remember the day, the moment, the loss
Perplexing, annoyed, forlorn and cross

Locked out of life, transportation and gold
Keys to the world have clearly been sold

All that I cherish resides on a ring
That circle gives access to everything

Late summer drew nigh, I prepared to depart
Thirty years of a place that won over my heart

How could I misplace so important a treasure
In the chaos of packing and farewell pleasure

My search through trash cans high and low
Revealed nothing but remnants of junk let go

Pause for a moment to think and review
Each step I had taken the previous two

Days of forgetfulness and check-off notes
Hundreds of details to fill up my totes

No wonder my key ring was missing in action
When months of planning had been a faction

I needed those keys to my house, to my car
Without them I would never go very far

Keys to my storage unit, keys to my bank
Keys to a life that seemed suddenly dank

Lost forever they were, I began to assess
My options for moving ahead with this mess

Costly new car keys, remote control, too
LoJack to replace, so much to do

Buy a new storage lock, notify the teller
Make sure car keys are there for the seller

Thank heaven for duplicate keys all around
Searching my house for where they might be found

Three hundred more dollars to replace a car key
Seems way more than needed for befuddled old me

But cost me it did in both money and grief
As I abandoned my thoughts of a mischievous thief

Surely I was the culprit of this mystery distraction
Own up to my faults and egregious reaction

I set about fixing the damage I had done
Finding or buying keys one by one

Eighteen months passed by, a thousand lifetimes ago
Lost keys were forgotten in favor of snow

Then holidays arrived, an invitation to stay
At the home of my daughter not too far away

I leaped at the chance to wake up Christmas Day
So near to grandchildren who giggle and play

My bag packed in seconds, my car filled with toys
I tackled snowdrifts to join sweet girls and boys

When morning arrived, little footsteps awakened me
As grandchildren stood in awe of the Christmas tree

Quickly washed my face, brushed my hair and teeth
Grabbed my turquoise robe and shoes to warm my feet

Reached top of the stairs, eager to join family crew
Hands dropped into my pockets to hear a jingle or two

Fate intervened, my old robe revealed a prize
A metal circle of keys that belied my eyes

Lost …. then finally found myself, if I may
Puzzle solved at last on this Christmas Day

–Victoria Emmons, © img_07202016

Flour

Flour’s in my candles
Wipe the kitchen down
Dusty piles of powder
Blowin’ all around

Ne’er thought I’d find all
That sifted, white ground
From drawer to floor
Floatin’ into mounds

But there it lived in
Every tiny crack
Chasin’ the day’s work
Breakin’ mama’s back

Pies and fresh pastries
Sweet raspberry tarts
Takes a lot of flour
And lots of false starts

Ain’t easy bakin’
Those cookies and cakes
Need a lil’ helper
For goodness sakes

Tie up his apron
Give him a good spoon
Young lad must learn
This cookin’ real soon

Flour goes a flyin’
Countertops to walls
Small fingers playin’
Makin’ castles tall

In between buildin’
Draw a shape or two
Learn to use a rollin’ pin
Pies for me and you

Smell the huckleberries
Picked right off the vine
Sprinkle ‘em with sugar
Add some brandy wine

Gentle with the crust, lad,
Crown must not fly high
Seal the edges now
Pinch, pinch, pinch the pie

Straight into the oven
Let’s all clap our hands
Flour rainin’ down
Formin’ mountains of sand

Forty minutes pass
Oven’s sweet perfume
Wafts throughout the house
Into every room

Timer wakes us all
Plates ready to go
The boy still plays
Apron fallin’ like snow

Thus my red candles
Got covered in white
Wouldn’t trade a speck
Of that wonderful sight!

–Victoria Emmons, copyright 2015

The Box

Thirty years
More or less
Tumble away
In an instant

Tiny red sneakers
“Left” written
On one toe
“Right” the other

White tee-shirt
Snaps at the shoulder
Easier to slip
Over a wiggly head

Matching series of
Exercise books
A backwards five
Plus a rounded six

Smiley faces on
Stick bodies stand
In a crayon land of
Perpetual rainbows

Pink, smocked dress
Hand-stitched
Seldom worn
Still like new

Stuffed kangaroo
Carries joey
In her pocket
Warm and safe

Red corduroy
Slightly faded
Suits a small jacket
Quite stylish

Tap dance costume
With twirling skirt
Missing one blue
Sequined arm band

Four letters glued
On a volleyball shirt
Spell champion
For that year

Note cards with
College logo
Embossed on fine
Paper stock

Four corners of a hat
Frame a black square
Upon which a tassel
Crowns success

My Little Ponies
In a zip-locked tomb
Emerge to neigh with
The next generation

–Victoria Emmons, copyright 2015

Inbox 

Random communiques appear,
Signal a familiar ding at all hours
To make me feel important, feel loved
In an otherwise ordinary life
Of early morning battles with my cat,
Both of us stressed over boxes.

Headlines selected daily by news editors
At The Washington Post or NBC Bay Area
Foist themselves upon me, assuring
Intelligent conversation with friends
Mourning the loss of a kind sheriff who tried
In vain to help a drowning victim.

My realtor asks about furniture, do I want any 
Of the beds laid in, chairs sat upon,
Tables eaten at by children growing into
Adulthood as their parents age in place,
Now selling out for a condo in Hawaii
And margaritas on a black sand beach.

Carly Fiorina needs my help, as do
A host of others scratching and clawing
To reach the very top of the world,
Earn the right to pin a medal on a hero
Or start a war with China, perhaps Iran, or
Unknown corners of the Earth yet to be found.

An invitation to breakfast in September when
Graduates of a Chamber Leadership Class
Offer pats on the back to neophytes
Only starting out, eager to become what
You are, what looks like success from 
Their vantage point, if they only knew.

FaceBook comments on whatever was said
That day of frivolity with photos taken in jest
And posted for all the world to see when
They should have been deleted before 
The submit button was pressed but
Could we have known the outcome.

Six clutter-busting tips to solve my problem,
Accumulation of life’s debris as it piles
High with unread copies of The Economist,
London Review of Books and Bon Appetit
Each crowding my mind for the little space left
To compete with collections of unlit candles.

Attachments carry an offer of employment 
Eagerly awaited after interviews, visits and
Proper conversations on goals and benefits,
An airplane trip away to the north where new
Friends will be made, new rooms to decorate await,
Life promises to be fulfilled or at least chronicled.

Neighbors write about a vacation to the east, so
Keep watch over their house while they are gone,
And by the way, did you get the job? Have you
Heard anything about paying for the asphalt?
Did you ever get your garage sale organized?
What did the house across the street sell for?

Contractor inquires about a check not yet received
For painting, building, repairing a bathroom,
Replacing a balcony, renewing a home to be
Lived in by someone else, except the same 
Sparrows that come back in the spring, as they
Always do along with the deer and bats.

A receipt for $3.99 to continue iCloud storage,
Small price to pay for false security that precious
Possessions will never be stolen or lost 
To thieves who lurk in CyberSpace, followed
By announcements about new data breaches
In the government and my health insurer.

Nothing in my e-mail speaks of love, no sweet
Words to arouse my sense of desire save
The Poem-A-Day from The Poetry Foundation
That graces my inbox regularly, yet today
“Enough” by Ellen Bass is about death,
But also about love of family and self.

Then love arrives electronically with two words
That ring in my ears, two simple sounds that
My brain allows me to recreate exactly as spoken
For more than 30 years, words taught over time
Part of a lesson in communication essential to life
A single key to my existence … “Hi, Mom!”

—Victoria Emmons, copyright 2015

Mother’s Day

As I get older
She fades just a little more
I try hard to remember
Try hard to find moments of love
Hugs and hearty breakfasts
Taxi duty and lessons in etiquette

I want to recall our 18 years
Together as mother and child
I try hard to remember
Her raucous laughter when
My sister made jokes about butterflies
Or the dog chewed up a pillow

I want to be in that moment
Relive my surprise birthday party
Family picnics at the zoo
Or the embarrassment of
Being 24 hours early
To a friend’s baby shower

I try hard to remember
Presents under a tree
A five-dollar bill mailed to France
To help pay for spring break
A torn hem in a wedding gown
Passed down for the ages

I try hard to remember
But my taste fades first
Cowboy cookies mailed in a neat box
Cherry pie under a sugary crust
Overcooked green beans
With bacon on the side

I try hard to remember
The smell of splattered grease on her apron
Orange rolls drizzled with white icing
A steaming cup of Folger’s instant coffee
Always instant, rarely ground
My nose no longer cooperates

I try hard to remember
Wrap my arms around her loving heart
To touch the silver watch
Too tight for her left wrist
And stop time forever
But touch is the next to go

I try hard to remember
The red lips painted on her pretty face
To match the colored fingernails
I replicate today
Her skin soft and smooth remains
A precious gift to me

I try, but it is hard to see
Unless I gaze in a mirror
Count the lines on my own face
Lines of time like hers
From laughter and tears
But my vision blurs now

I try hard to remember
Her loud wake-up calls
In early morning
As she flipped pancakes
And tried to roust the troops
Unwilling to face a new day

I listen and hear nothing
Of the countless story books
Read over and over
To an eager audience of children
And their friends always happy
To be at my house instead of theirs

I try hard to remember
Her sage advice as I stood there
On slippery courthouse steps
A marriage lost and long forgotten
A message of pride as to who I am
No matter the challenge life brings

But hearing also fades
The last to vanish

–Victoria Emmons, ©2015