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 frienship 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

Unfair

Unfair that I should
lay back
on a comfortable chaise
next to a clear, blue
pool of running water,
a sound to calm my nerves,
steady my heart,
settle my head,
reconcile what is left
of a rather long life.

Unfair that a mother
should grieve
her young son,
a father should
bring his daughter
home to Pakistan
in a coffin,
a birthday party
should be cancelled
in favor of a funeral,
the boy turned 17
still hugs his
creation laying silent
on an art room floor.

Unfair that death
to others is the answer
to self loathing,
revenge the choice
for an unkind word,
no matter the tool —
fist to the nose,
trigger to the head,
stab to the heart —
killing the answer.

Unfair that funerals
beget more funerals,
a killing ground for
the lonely, desperate,
duped, a-political
turned fanatic,
the baby born
with no mother,
no love, no compassion,
no enthusiasm for life.

Unfair that life
is over when
it is over.
No second thoughts.
No second chance to rewind,
reconsider the action,
hate, killing,
the tragedy
about to unfold.
Always one,
that one sad person
ready to pull the trigger.

—Victoria Emmons, 5/20/18

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

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

Batter Up

Cries from a bleacher 
Fan of a different stripe 
Hoots and waves
Shouts to the team

Shout and Shot easy to misspell
Hate not as easy to dispel
Hate upon a field of play
Play just for fun

Play no more, run and hide
Hide and seek metal
Metal that flies
through flesh

Flesh and blood 
Blood-stained second
Second on to third
Third straight to home run

Run for your life
Live. Love.
Pursuit of happiness.
Pledge of Allegiance.

Round the bases
Popcorn, peanuts
Hot dogs, beer 
Fans who cheer

My Country ‘Tis of Thee
Innocence lost in uncivil 
discourse, lost to ugly shouts
When shots rang out.

–Victoria Emmons, 2017

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.

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

Drawers

So simple the design of a drawer,
pull and push, search for something lost,
a ribbon, a jar of ground cloves,
zebra-striped pasta long and narrow,
a green marbled heart meant to
give away, but kept.

Drawers contain books to read, journals
to write, secrets to hide or discover,
an entire family history stored for
at least a decade or more waiting
to hand down to the next generation.

The empty one my least favorite, second drawer
of the tall dresser, the one he used to fill
with socks. Now barren, the drawer’s
cedar wood frame houses a familiar scent
that lingers so I won’t forget.

–Victoria Emmons, 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