Resurrection 

I feel the warmth of your arms surround me
as years wash away, a long moment of grief
expressed in a hug too tight for a child,
a man without a father.

History powerful enough to tear down
walls of time belies reason.
A sepia photograph reminds of
bygone youth, shared play,
picnics at the zoo. 

Sadness and joy clash on this day,
memories well up in your eyes and mine.
Tales to tell, remembrances, laughter and love.
Shrimp, crayfish and oysters
on the table before us.

Thundering rain upon heavy limbs
laden with green resurrection ferns.
A damp night of conversation and thoughtful
stories, but no campfire.

Spring awaits summer, hot and sticky,
sweat follows the length of your temples,
beads on your forehead.
Love beats in your heart.
Family swells in your mind.

A homecoming of sorts, we gather to mourn,
remark the change in lines on our faces,
spill our absent lives into one another’s.
Four score years should not pass
before shared warmth.

Believing the other will always exist,
somewhere in the annals of our history,
part of the natural order of our universe,
a comfort zone to our souls,
does not make it so.

Create a pact, dear ones.
Share more of life in
years to come.
Let’s not wait for
the next family funeral.

—Victoria Emmons, May 2017

For cousins

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

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

Sole Survivor

I am the sole guest
At my dinner table
No one to please
Save my own palate

The hour is late
As work takes over
On this holiday week
With no one to share

A Roomful of Blues
Plays Solid Jam
Awakening my soul
Soul of another kind

I scour cookbooks
For fresh recipes
Savor Gouda and gherkins
With a vodka chase

My kitchen dance begins
10 o’clock piano jazz
And smooth lyrics
To hide my fears

Let me love you, baby
He repeats throughout
A tune that will fade
As love fades, too, after a while

Butter sizzles in the pan
Hot pools of taste
Wait for the main dish
Washed and patted dry

Flour encases the fillets
Protects them from harm
Wish it were so easy
To protect me, too

Wrapped in flour
Browned and moist
Seasoned well over time
Sole Meunière survives

–Victoria Emmons,  Copyright 2014

My Every Breath

Take it away
My every breath
Never to return

You gave me life
Deepest hope
Beautiful laughter

Those words you sent
In a tiny box
Magnified our love

We were sixteen
Or so it felt
For a while

The many years
Months, days
And hours

Became nothing
More than minutes
Counting morphine

–Victoria Emmons ©2011

Never Ever Land

Rage washes over me
Like the river on the rocks
In a Montana woodside walk
Through the chapters of my life

A wistful rage if there is one
This deep acceptance of what is
And not what I dream it to be
In my world of friendship and love

Clouds produce tears on my head
Just as I drop tears of regret
Droplets of remorse and sorrow
Of what would never be, nor should

My brain will not think otherwise
As the logical mind speaks truth
Yet my heart plays with fancy
Until it finally cracks in two

So drawn to he who can
Charm the world and me
Into believing him and his lies
Loving each moment of untruth

Like a snake charmer, he curses
Those who fall into his slithering trap
Never to escape the dread
Pain and horror of it all

He lies again and again while smiling
Believers follow his lead to nowhere
Praise and adore him, laugh forever
At his brilliance and polish

Rage lies deep within, seething
Flooding every vessel
Until a poison develops
Moving like fire to my head

Tears and sweat dance cheek to cheek
Seeking solace as they pool in my palm
The sultry heat of summer is
Unbearable for this new reality

Uncertainty is my certain future
A crown of Never Ever Land
To place upon my dripping brow
And hide all the rage inside

–Victoria Emmons
Montana, 2014

 

 

 

Fear Not

I am now at the age when death is a reality. While death is ever present even from the time we are young, it somehow looms ever larger as we age…perhaps it is our own destiny that brings everything into perspective. Losing a loved one clarifies a lot.

I lost my father in 1983 and my mother in 1999, so both have been gone for many years. They died sooner than I would have liked, but we cannot change what is. We can only accept and live with it. When my husband died in 2010, it was far more difficult. He was my everyday friend in life, the man who loved me more than life itself. There remains a huge void with his departure from this Earth.

But loss is part of life. We each have a beginning and an end. We cannot escape that. I was at a seminar recently about advance care planning. The instructor asked us each to think about our first encounter with death. Initially, I thought about my grandfather. I was 13 when he died peacefully in my parents’ bedroom. My grandmother opened the front door of our house just as my sister and I were running in laughing after a rousing game of bound-ball in the heat of a sunny Florida afternoon. Her words stunned us.

“He’s gone,” she said curtly. “Your grandfather’s gone.”

My sister and I looked at one another puzzled about the clarity of the message. What did she mean? We tiptoed in the house and as we passed by my mother’s bedroom door, we got a glimpse of Grand-daddy. My mother told us we should say goodbye to him and gave us permission to enter the room. Inching closer to the bed, the finality of it all caused my face to burn bright red. It was the first time I had seen someone dead. He looked very peaceful, as I recall, but definitely not moving or winking his eye at me like he always used to do. He was gone, as my grandmother had said.

That memory spawned yet another and I realized that I had been touched by death even earlier than as a young teen. When I was about nine years old, I lost a kitten. I have always been a cat lover and had kittens from the time I was a young kid, even though my father didn’t like them very much. Our cat had kittens one spring and there were four of them running around the yard since we weren’t allowed to have them indoors. Sometimes I would sneak them into my bedroom at night, but generally they had to survive outdoors. One morning, it was raining hard. I was standing on the front porch looking for my kittens to bring them in from the rain. My father was leaving for work and I knew I could hide them easily. I waved goodbye to him as he darted through the raindrops and got into the car. He turned on the ignition. One of my kittens, trying to get out of the rain, had taken shelter behind the wheel of the car. As Dad backed out of the driveway, I witnessed the death of my sweet, little furry friend, watching as she flipped in the air with the impact of the car, her lifeless body landing flat on the concrete, soaked and dying.

Death makes a lasting impression on us. It helps us realize the beauty of life. It helps us appreciate what we have, those we love, and what is most important. It’s easy to get caught up in the brouhaha of wanting success, love, wealth, or power. In the end, we all die. And what is most important is telling those we love that we love them, we forgive them, and we ask that they forgive us. We want peace and we want to be pain free. And last of all, we do not want to be a burden to our families.

My memories of death include the most recent one of my husband, of course. I was with him when he died, although it was not as I had hoped. We had no hospice. He lay in a sterile hospital bed when the doctor told me he had only a few days to live. But I knew that he was dying. I had seen that for months. One of the mistakes doctors and families make is not calling upon hospice soon enough. The hospice benefit is available for patients with a prognosis of six months or less to live. Had my family been given those six months of care, my husband’s death would have been far more peaceful and my family would have gotten the support we needed both then and afterward as the deepest of all grief begins to take over your life for what seems like years.

My advice to one and all is to consider hospice care much earlier in the process. Time and time again, families tell me that they wish they had known about hospice sooner. It is a wonderful benefit available to those with insurance or not since non-profit hospices care for everyone no matter their ability to pay. CMS (Medicare) covers hospice services, as does other commercial insurances. Ask for it. Don’t wait until 24 hours before your loved one dies. Ask for hospice care months before… when you, your loved one and your family need it the most. It is an amazing benefit. Don’t be afraid of asking for hospice.