Bones in my Bed

Soft whimpers break the
silence of my room,
the only sound beyond your
breathing, the rhythm of
your chest undulating like
an ocean wave.

My toes find their way
under the sheets,
rearranging blankets
and a slippery bedspread
always askew.

Aches that appear only
at night rise up as
twists and turns remind
me of my sixth decade.

You are there, as my friend
forever loyal, cluttering
my bed with your bones.

–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

Lost and Found

Remember the day, the moment, the loss
Perplexing, annoyed, forlorn and cross

Locked out of life, transportation and gold
Keys to the world have clearly been sold

All that I cherish resides on a ring
That circle gives access to everything

Late summer drew nigh, I prepared to depart
Thirty years of a place that won over my heart

How could I misplace so important a treasure
In the chaos of packing and farewell pleasure

My search through trash cans high and low
Revealed nothing but remnants of junk let go

Pause for a moment to think and review
Each step I had taken the previous two

Days of forgetfulness and check-off notes
Hundreds of details to fill up my totes

No wonder my key ring was missing in action
When months of planning had been a faction

I needed those keys to my house, to my car
Without them I would never go very far

Keys to my storage unit, keys to my bank
Keys to a life that seemed suddenly dank

Lost forever they were, I began to assess
My options for moving ahead with this mess

Costly new car keys, remote control, too
LoJack to replace, so much to do

Buy a new storage lock, notify the teller
Make sure car keys are there for the seller

Thank heaven for duplicate keys all around
Searching my house for where they might be found

Three hundred more dollars to replace a car key
Seems way more than needed for befuddled old me

But cost me it did in both money and grief
As I abandoned my thoughts of a mischievous thief

Surely I was the culprit of this mystery distraction
Own up to my faults and egregious reaction

I set about fixing the damage I had done
Finding or buying keys one by one

Eighteen months passed by, a thousand lifetimes ago
Lost keys were forgotten in favor of snow

Then holidays arrived, an invitation to stay
At the home of my daughter not too far away

I leaped at the chance to wake up Christmas Day
So near to grandchildren who giggle and play

My bag packed in seconds, my car filled with toys
I tackled snowdrifts to join sweet girls and boys

When morning arrived, little footsteps awakened me
As grandchildren stood in awe of the Christmas tree

Quickly washed my face, brushed my hair and teeth
Grabbed my turquoise robe and shoes to warm my feet

Reached top of the stairs, eager to join family crew
Hands dropped into my pockets to hear a jingle or two

Fate intervened, my old robe revealed a prize
A metal circle of keys that belied my eyes

Lost …. then finally found myself, if I may
Puzzle solved at last on this Christmas Day

–Victoria Emmons, © img_07202016

Inbox 

Random communiques appear,
Signal a familiar ding at all hours
To make me feel important, feel loved
In an otherwise ordinary life
Of early morning battles with my cat,
Both of us stressed over boxes.

Headlines selected daily by news editors
At The Washington Post or NBC Bay Area
Foist themselves upon me, assuring
Intelligent conversation with friends
Mourning the loss of a kind sheriff who tried
In vain to help a drowning victim.

My realtor asks about furniture, do I want any 
Of the beds laid in, chairs sat upon,
Tables eaten at by children growing into
Adulthood as their parents age in place,
Now selling out for a condo in Hawaii
And margaritas on a black sand beach.

Carly Fiorina needs my help, as do
A host of others scratching and clawing
To reach the very top of the world,
Earn the right to pin a medal on a hero
Or start a war with China, perhaps Iran, or
Unknown corners of the Earth yet to be found.

An invitation to breakfast in September when
Graduates of a Chamber Leadership Class
Offer pats on the back to neophytes
Only starting out, eager to become what
You are, what looks like success from 
Their vantage point, if they only knew.

FaceBook comments on whatever was said
That day of frivolity with photos taken in jest
And posted for all the world to see when
They should have been deleted before 
The submit button was pressed but
Could we have known the outcome.

Six clutter-busting tips to solve my problem,
Accumulation of life’s debris as it piles
High with unread copies of The Economist,
London Review of Books and Bon Appetit
Each crowding my mind for the little space left
To compete with collections of unlit candles.

Attachments carry an offer of employment 
Eagerly awaited after interviews, visits and
Proper conversations on goals and benefits,
An airplane trip away to the north where new
Friends will be made, new rooms to decorate await,
Life promises to be fulfilled or at least chronicled.

Neighbors write about a vacation to the east, so
Keep watch over their house while they are gone,
And by the way, did you get the job? Have you
Heard anything about paying for the asphalt?
Did you ever get your garage sale organized?
What did the house across the street sell for?

Contractor inquires about a check not yet received
For painting, building, repairing a bathroom,
Replacing a balcony, renewing a home to be
Lived in by someone else, except the same 
Sparrows that come back in the spring, as they
Always do along with the deer and bats.

A receipt for $3.99 to continue iCloud storage,
Small price to pay for false security that precious
Possessions will never be stolen or lost 
To thieves who lurk in CyberSpace, followed
By announcements about new data breaches
In the government and my health insurer.

Nothing in my e-mail speaks of love, no sweet
Words to arouse my sense of desire save
The Poem-A-Day from The Poetry Foundation
That graces my inbox regularly, yet today
“Enough” by Ellen Bass is about death,
But also about love of family and self.

Then love arrives electronically with two words
That ring in my ears, two simple sounds that
My brain allows me to recreate exactly as spoken
For more than 30 years, words taught over time
Part of a lesson in communication essential to life
A single key to my existence … “Hi, Mom!”

—Victoria Emmons, copyright 2015

Daddy

Your handsome face stares
out from a weathered picture frame
into my life, the life you created.

More than creation, you lifted me into
a world of puppy dogs’ tails, fish
at the end of a pole, and sharpshooters.

Your aim was straight and exact, calculated
so you hit the mark in your patient way, forever
waiting for the rest of us to follow.

You remain my tower of strength, a stable rock
upon which I can depend, the blessing
in an otherwise churning river of disappointment.

I imagine you perched on a stool in my kitchen, sipping
a cup of instant coffee, no cream,
listening to me talk about dreams and lovers.

I picture your advice to me this day, when
fathers everywhere are exalted just for being, for
their love, kindness and understanding.

To feel the comfort of your hug right now, Daddy,
just one more time, would revive my faith in men
and erase the pain for yet another day.

–Victoria Emmons, Copyright 2015

Open Doors for Baudelaire

BaudelaireI will not be ruled by my cat. No more is he allowed to curl up in the warmth of my lap. No longer is he invited to live under my roof. I brought him home five years ago when he only seven weeks old. The cute, little champagne kitten stood out from the rest of the litter in the cage that day. I only needed one kitten. That’s all. But the volunteer with the pet shelter convinced me I should have a pair. This kitten would need a playmate, she advised.

I have had cats for over half a century. I know all about cats. Or so I thought. I did know the volunteer’s suggestion had merit. Kittens like to play with one another, especially when I am off at work and they would be otherwise all alone. Having a playmate helps keep them from climbing curtains, scratching furniture and other untoward behavior.

Continue reading

The Legacy of the Sisters

Be that as it may
They came
With no warning
Just like the cancer

They raked
They cooked
They sat with him
In his loneliness

They laughed
At TV game shows
Puzzled through
NY Times crosswords

They worried
They fretted
They gave their time
And their love

And they brought
The small, white
Plastic trash bags
For the remains

Neatly lining
All five of the
Small, round cans
In the bedroom

They dutifully
Emptied each bag
Once a day
Of its toxic contents

Their legacy
Of love…
And then they
Said goodbye

-Victoria Emmons, © 2011

Rhythms of Life on Foothill Road

From my house in the foothills, I can hear the Credence Clearwater Revisited Band jamming to the crowd. The sound floats out above the shopping centers and the speeding cars on the freeway, filling the length of Foothill Road. Every year in early summer, our town’s population swells to reflect the excitement of the County Fair. Businesses thrive and traffic is plentiful. And then, just as quickly as they arrived, fair goers and carnies all go home and summer continues its slow march into fall.

It reminds me of the moths that arrive at my front door every January. They appear just after New Year’s Day and flutter around my outdoor lights for two to three weeks. I have to open the door carefully or the winged creatures fly into my house. My cats often chase them around the living room. By the end of their visit, the moths just seem to disappear as quickly as they appeared. Where do they go?

Bats have their cycle, too. They descend in the dark of night, so are less obvious about making their nests under the shingles of my house. I can tell they’re back when their droppings become plentiful on my deck. They have lived there as long as I have. Well, probably longer. A friend suggested I relocate them to a bat house; but it doesn’t seem quite fair. They migrate annually and my place is just a summer cottage for them. Besides, they eat mosquitos and other pesky bugs. The bats and I made a truce long ago to peacefully coexist in our woodsy environment.

Like the moths and bats, the hikers have their patterns, too. In summer, they appear more frequently on that treacherous incline where I live. They huff and puff up the hill to reach the entrance to the Regional Park trails where they can enjoy the pleasure of nature at its best. Those who like real challenge ride mountain bikes up the steep hill and achieve the pleasure of a swift return going back downhill. The heartiest of hikers are there year round, but summer definitely swells the crowds.

Fair goers, moths, bats and hikers… all of them represent the rhythms of life on Foothill Road. It is what I love about living here.

The Rhythms of the House

Jack never lost his sense of humor. As he lay dying in our spacious bedroom, the room we had shared for 11 years, he would joke to me about any number of things. He’d kid me about not keeping the tables dusted. Or he’d muse about me feeding too much water to the potted tomato vines on the deck. And he would assign me to-do lists.

He pointed out that in January, the moths would arrive for three weeks at our front door and then disappear just as quickly. He said that I needed to be patient with them as they continued their life cycle. He knew I didn’t like it when they accidentally flew into the house and fluttered all around.

He reminded me that tiny birds would be building another nest as they did every spring at the apex of our front roof. They would leave a mess right underneath their nest and that I could clean it up with some good old soap and water. I remember how much he liked to listen to their song in the last few weeks of his life when his hearing became especially acute.

Jack told me to look in the garden tool bin to find the leaf blower so that I could keep the driveway clear of leaves. He said I would need to fill the gas can as the blower ran on gas. I was never good at filling gas cans.

He wanted to be sure I knew about how to care for the hydrangeas. Our hydrangea bushes were beautiful and full, filled with incredible flowers in white, pink and purple. They were Jack’s doing. He had the green thumb in the family. He told me where to find the blue coloring for the soil and which plant food to use.

He added to my checklist the need for getting a new license tag for the X5, getting the Z3 cleaned, and making sure I got the oil changed in the Infiniti. And he reminded me to keep the cars clean and smelling nice in the interior. He always kept his cars very clean.

Fawns will come around in the late spring and early summer, he proclaimed, although I already knew that. He wanted to be sure I put the potted hydrangeas in the fenced backyard since the ones on the deck risk having their flowers devoured by the deer.

Leave the crooked pine tree in the backyard. I like that tree, he said. I know you want to remove it, but leave it alone. It is struggling, but it is okay where it is.

September can get rather hot, he said. Jack wanted me to understand how the automatic sprinkler system works so that the plants would receive the optimal amount of water. The system is a little antiquated, but still works except for a few sprinkler heads that need changing. How do I do that?

In October, he said, the Great Horned Owls will come back. They will perch in the big oak tree just behind our fence and hoot enough to make Birdie bark like crazy. Our dog hates the owls. And the enormous birds simply hoot away, oblivious to the anxiety of the dog.

Wild turkeys are plentiful, but especially so in November, oddly enough. Jack reminded me that the turkeys will leave a mess on the driveway almost daily and that it would require the high-powered sprayer to keep it clean. Look for it in the tool bin.

The Christmas tree is in its usual box in the garage, he said. Get someone to help you put it up. The colors on each limb have to match up with the ones on the central trunk of the tree. You have to check for burned out bulbs on the string of lights, too, or they won’t turn on. Then you can hang all your ornaments on it as you like to do every year. Remember that the tree has to go up the day after Thanksgiving.


Leaves are piled up on the driveway. Sometimes the neighbor comes over and blows them away for me. The holly tree died in this year’s drought. The pine tree had to be taken down, dying from the top as it did. The bushes are way overgrown in the back yard. Neither the hydrangeas nor the roses got pruned properly last winter.

The moths still arrive each January, as do the owls in October. And the tiny birds have laid eggs in their nest under the eaves.

The Christmas tree has not been decorated in two years since the holiday was celebrated with family in another state.

Before he died that summer, Jack shared with me what he called the rhythms of the house.  I will never be able to finish the to-do list he gave me.