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 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

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

The Closet

I am coming out of the closet, little by little, as time permits. It isn’t easy to admit to yourself. I started small. A word here, a rhyme there. It felt so comfortable and reassuring. Then one day, I started a blog. But nothing was posted. It was a first step. An inch toward reaching a lifetime goal. A year later, still nothing there. I had to renew the blog subscription or lose it. So I started to post my poems for all the world to see. I was sure that no one would read them. They were there for me more than anything else, a storage place where they would not get lost in the clouds. I didn’t promote the blog, nor even tell friends it was there.

Poet. I pronounce the moniker over and over in my head. You are a poet, I tell myself. Being just a plain writer seems easier, not quite so bold. Poets are different, after all. They are funky, wear multi-colored hats, strange perfume and turquoise eyeliner. They look like cowboys or those girls in high school who only wore black. They drink Turkish coffee while writing at cafes … or mumbling to themselves. Poets gather in groups to listen to each other read. They cringe at some lines, applaud others. They always make a knowing “hmmm” sound when the reader finishes as though a universal understanding of the deep meaning just occurred. Poets spend hours thinking and writing about the good, bad and ugly of life. Their life. Poetry is, after all, a memoir in rhyme. Poets are in pain. I will fit right in.

 

Mud

A gift of mud
From a dear friend
Turns my head
In a new direction

Not just any mud,
Of course, since
This mud traveled
Long distances

Through customs
Weighting down an
Already heavy suitcase
Of trinkets and souvenirs

This mud revered
By millions over time
Anecdote for pain
Soothing an ache or two

And now mine
To ease the hurt
Of an aging body
And cloudy mind

The mud draws me
Closer again
Pulls me toward
The clear water

Falls tumble
Over the edge
Like so many
Nights I remember

The sound of the flow
As it eased his pain
Warmth the only remedy
For his affliction

All these years
I could not go
Near the water
Or the memories

Of that huge tub
Filled with pain
And agony
Loneliness and sorrow

At night I hear
The faucet running still
As it was those dark
And deadly nights

Awakening me with
The reality of a cancer
Poisoning life as
We once knew it

The mud equals
Renewal and healing
Fifteen to twenty minutes
Is all it promises

Skin renewed, soft
Gentle kindness
Rinsed away in
Warm waters

I can do this
My aging flesh
Will accept the hot
Pool beneath me

No longer must I hide
From the bathtub of death
When life beckons
Me to play

Ironic somehow
The birth of
This renewal mud
The Dead Sea

—Victoria Emmons © 2015

In Air

A very bumpy plane ride
Makes me rethink my priorities

It happened once before
An hour out of Houston

Fire in the cargo hold
The pilot told us

Life flashed before my eyes
Nothing I could do

Except be grateful
My kid was not there

If life is to end on an airplane
It should be romantic

Shouldn’t it?
Or at least over Bermuda

But Odessa, Texas?
Not too sexy, I think

Nothing to be done
Except imagine

What novels be written
Or poems to create

Were I to live
What shall life entail?

The skies are full of danger
Bumps and grinds galore

I feel the end is nearing
And what have I to show?

Hurry up now, dearie,
For your time is short

The bumps are even stronger
And the sounds very coarse

Clouds do not obey
Their master or even pretend

Every glass defies its space
Upon my dinner tray

All I can do is think of you
And how we are no more

This flight has me in ecstasy
Of purpose going forth

For I am free of thee
Free of me

My life is holding court
Judging all that is

As bumps and grinds
Take me onward

This plane in control
And I am not

My mind expands
And as we land

I am down to Earth
Once again

A normal being
Life without trauma

Life just another
Bumpy plane ride

—Victoria Emmons © 2015

Hope

Found in more than a thousand places
Hope takes on so many faces.

Will I pass my science test?
Does my father think I’m best?

Will this baby stay alive to
Live nine months and always thrive?

Will the judge be kind to me
Even I when I try to flee?

Will this flower bloom in red
Or only bloom inside my head?

Will I find sweet Allie dog
Lost today amidst the fog?

Will I finish this long race
And, win or lose, accept my place?

Will my love be always there
Even when I need his care?

Will Mom live another day
To smile with me, to laugh and play?

I hope for this, I hope for that
I hope I look good in this new hat.

Hope takes on another face
Hope I keep up this grueling pace.

—Victoria Emmons © 2015

D-Day

Paula had warned me they were there. I had my doubts. It had been 15 years since I moved into my house and I had never seen one. She was certain they were hiding out there somewhere. I just hadn’t found any yet. Today was the day.

I was washing the brick barbecue area in my back yard. The sink next to the gas grill was filled with dry, crinkled leaves that were clogging up the drain. It is nearly autumn and my oak trees have begun to discard more of their leaves and twigs. I reached in and pulled out a handful of the debris that had filled the sink. And there they were hiding under the mulch….two medium-sized scorpions each with their claws extended. I had been cleaning this sink with my bare hands. I took a step backward in disbelief. I knew I could not wash the creatures down the drain. I searched for a sturdy twig on the ground, picked it up and began my task. The pair had to be destroyed.

The larger one, the female, was slower since she was carrying her future children. She went first. As she died, she deposited her eggs, a final effort to assure her progeny survived. I felt like a beast. The smaller of the two, the male, fought hard. Even when I thought he was gone, after my sword had crushed his body, his wiggling claws demonstrated his vitality.

I was still uncomfortable about my own safety. I knew a scorpion bite could be very painful and even deadly. Only 30 of the 1,500 species of scorpion can inflict potentially fatal stings. But which 30, I asked? I didn’t have time to look that up before I dealt with these two scorpions that had taken up residence.

Despite the huge variance in our sizes, the scorpions and I battled until the end. The eggs were washed down the drain to their own fate. I snagged the scorpion bodies with my twig and moved them up onto the brick countertop. I needed to reassure myself that they had been properly exterminated. And then I saw a third. He had escaped my sight earlier, hiding along with a medium-sized black spider under the mass of gunk in my sink. This one seemed to move slower than the other two. Yet he was equally as difficult to destroy. All three of the scorpions living in my sink were unaware that today was D-Day. The spider was set free.

—Victoria Emmons, © August 31, 2014