Cancelled

She tells me I am
Cancelled
Forever gone from her life
And those of her friends
Who think they are special
Better than the rest
Way better than me
In my frumpy gymsuit
And zero brand collars
No penny in my loafers
Much less fancy tags
From places I can’t pronounce

She tells me I am
Cancelled
Not among the invited few
With privileges to enter
No member number by my name
To celebrate a marriage
Play a volley of tennis
Swing a new driver on wet grass
Race against time in a private lane
On routine morning laps
That anesthetize life
For the next generation

She tells me I am
Cancelled
My child not smart enough
For lavish play circles
Skilled in violin or dance
Ivy League study trips
To Kathmandu or Tokyo
Shopping sprees in big cities
Filled with faces of a different kind
On shores not of our making
Horses race to the finish line
Await the golden prize

She tells me I am
Cancelled
Undeserving of her anointed
Self-importance as though
My gymsuit remains baggy
Shoes tattered and socks worn
Running on empty streets
Curbs with no master
To slow me at red lights or stop signs
Before dawn cracks open her window
Enough to see the hospital walls
Ahead in the darkened alley

She tells me I am
Cancelled
Uncertain who resides behind
The mask of protection from
A March madness that seeps
Into Earth’s seams
Slows its rotation
Halts splashes in the waves
Stops shiny rings on young fingers
Hopeful of a future that may disappear
She remains unaware
Lost in old reruns to mark time in place

She tells me I am
Cancelled
Waves her black pastic in my face
To let me know she pays for the best
Most famous doctor on his way
To save her skin from everyone else
Who sneezes with aching brains
Scarred lungs and seared hearts
Like hers left from years of ugliness
Too selfish to consider the value
Of what friendship might be
If she chooses to look

She tells me I am
Cancelled
As I wipe droplets from her sweaty brow
Insert fluids into her bulging veins
Ignore her delirium as nonsense
Spews from her crusty lips partnered
With the venom of her kind
Gasping for air and life all at once
Retreat from the past
Act in the now
Save the woman from herself
Save myself, too

I tell her she is
Cancelled
God knows we tried our best
Gave all we could
Against all odds
Isolation, ventilator and
Life-saving drugs aside
The same outcome
Her daughter cries
I discard my gloves in a red bag
And move to the next room
Another life cancelled

–Victoria Emmons, copyright, 2020

Freeze Frame

Stuck in the age of Covid-19, racing to nowhere except a way out of this box to which the world has been condemned, a prison cell of prevention, or not, for those unlucky thousands who carry coronavirus with them to their graves, leaving the rest of us to worry about droplets lingering for days on Amazon delivery boxes, empty grocery store shelves, dirty gas pump handles, or our own Fido’s nose, even a child’s hand fresh from a playground jungle gym when the real jungle is Mother Earth spinning in all her infected glory, laughing as she twirls leaving that voice message that cries, “I told you so.”

—Victoria Emmons, copyright 2020

Birch Symphony

Her twigs whistle softly
Woodwinds not yet silenced
Still merry with seasonal change

Rustling leaves offer a hint of song
High notes and low ones
Orchestrated by the wind

Clever of the skies
To solicit mid-air composition
A subtle gift to my ears

Music for the heavens
And those who fly high
Above swooning branches

Melodies that dance forever
Join tiny voices of sparrows
And rouse cackling blackbirds

She gently touches her cloak
Slowly, then with vigor, she
Plunges through each chord

Mighty wind at her back
A gust arrives in D Minor
Blows her instrument awry

Her tempo changes,
Each prelude starts anew
A scorching endless song

Percussion at the ready
Clashing arms mere zest
To flute-like singing bees

That hum, dance and
Swirl to the sound
Of life in the making

Her symphony foretells
Desire, yet alas, quiet
When winter will silence her song

—Victoria Emmons, 2018

A Prayer for Cold Feet

Do not set foot
into a black limousine.
A ride through empty streets
makes the dream real.

No pretend toe tag,
coroner’s signature required.
Son rescues a wedding ring
from a burial far too deep.

Well-placed calls to
sisters, brothers and daughters.
Search for an American flag
to drape across a wooden coffin.

Images of sixty-some years
pasted to a display board
filled with silly grins
at milestone occasions.

Give me a handkerchief,
please. Be there for me,
you, a witness to
love, family, legacy.

Write your name in a book
to remember celebrants
for a friend, father, grandpa,
brother, husband, lover.

Shoe pinches my toe
with each step toward
sympathetic arms outstretched,
pinches my heart.

If the shoe hurts
I don’t have to wear it.
Allow me, dear Lord,
to live with cold feet.

—Victoria Emmons, © 2017
For Karen

Couples

Cup without a saucer
First name without a last
Activist without a handmade sign
Monkey without a banana to eat
Home without a state
State without a name
Hand without a finger
Nowhere is home
No place is mine
Where a heart resides in peace
Accepted by rulers
who prey upon strangers
and do not tolerate salt
without pepper.

—Victoria Emmons, © 2018

A Different Kind of Playground

Toes have lost all feeling.
Trigger finger feigns sleep
as night approaches for
the fourteenth time.
No relief.
We wait.
Wait for something new.
A stir under a bush,
light in a wet jungle
unwilling to relinquish
its charm,
hidden eyes revealed.
A faraway cough
threatens my dreams
of playgrounds and
laughing children.
A flash of fire
disrupts the cloud of
greenfinches bedding down.
All Hell awakens.

–Victoria Emmons, © 2018

Missing

A missing appendage
Makes it hard to type
Close a button
Pick up a dime

The departed pointer finger
Lost to a sharp buzz saw
Building hearth and home
To keep a family safe

Lost, but found, the finger tip
Still feels, still grows its own claw
Offers refuge for gnawing concerns
That cloud a hectic day

Gone, but not forgotten,
Memories reside in time
Within an absent piece of flesh
Imagined to be whole

Finger the missing edge
Feel it, love it, massage
Its invisible core
Until it reappears

Make it whole again
Make yourself whole
Resume your heartbeat
Nothing missing

–Victoria Emmons, copyright, 2017