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

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

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

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

The Other Side

I’m on the right
You’re on the left
Sometimes you drift my way
Other times I drift yours

Often we meet
In the middle
Best of all
Warm up to each other

Now your side stripped bare
Too cold to creep over there
Empty and void of feeling
Plumped-up pillows for no purpose

Evening routine remains
Regimented, predictable
Yet morning cries reality
Evidence of attempts to reconcile

Edging slightly your way
Blanket all askew
Tugged by unknown forces
Mystic, ghost-like visions

The other side of my bed
Still lies in wait
For your arrival
That never comes

–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

Measuring Love

Fat, white flakes cover rooftops, fence lines
Rain upon sidewalks and parked cars
Plant themselves in mountains of cloud-like splendor
Snow painting a merry Christmas Day

Bright sky at midnight, enough reflection to guide Santa
And his reindeer to our home where children sleep
As grandmother lies eyes open and in wait
For laughter and expectation to fill the morning light

Check the empty plate for cookie crumbs
And leftover drops of milk, evidence of parental love
While children confirm today is the day, finally
Yes, dear Alex, Christmas has arrived

Presents bear his name, a word he can spell at three
His sister’s name, too, three letters he reads aloud
On a tag that hangs from a golden package
Wrapped with silver twine and sparkly stars

Help Zoe open her gifts, dear boy, you know how
She yet too young to rip paper and bows
He willing and eager to obey
Tears into each gift for baby sister

Delve into the unknown, discover what resides inside a box
Find out what hides within a heart, a soul
My decision to move, leave all that is known
Leave behind a life, a friend, a sunny world

The real gift is me, dear children, nearby you now
Far from the warmth of a California coastline
To the land of slips on the ice, long winters
Snow button in my car, four-wheel drive

The day after gifts revealed, wrapping paper gone
Two feet of snow to shovel from my deck
Under a clear, pink Boxing Day sky
Measuring love in twenty-four inches

–Victoria Emmons  © 2016