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

Mostly Me

Frankly it was summer
and hot.
Air wouldn’t move
and fences were blocked
so no one could enter
even if you didn’t
want to go inside.

I did. I wanted to see
what his world had been like,
all hundred or more years of it.
There he was, a stone general
frozen in thought
astride a white mount
blackened by time.

The pressure
weighed upon him,
I am sure of it.
Please the family,
children need bread,
a new nation cannot breathe
without a leader.

Easy enough to live
on a peaceful farm,
ignore the critics
and haters,
ones who shame
into leadership
those who might win.

Oh, cousin, why did
we fight to defend
a way of life
gone for the ages,
too radical
for our time,
but not yours.

Conflict need come
to an end, they say,
no war between us
or remains of vast
valleys full of blood,
soldiers no more,
only crosses on a hill.

You watch from atop
your loyal stead
new soldiers who
never learned history,
nor learned from it,
mistakes made and
lives lost, teach anew.

They do not listen,
nor will they know
that you remain a leader
teaching lessons from your day,
remind them of wrongs
gone by, not wiped away,
remembered for a reason.

Dear cousin, show them
from your Traveler’s perch
so no one will forget,
that our battles
from home to home,
brother to brother
must surely end.

–Victoria Emmons, 2017

Praha Notes

Stumble on stones
that speak to my feet
seven centuries past
Too long ago to recall
A love gone by.

Sky aided by clouds
darkened in an instant
to cool a steamy day,
raindrops and thunder
fluffed into marshmallow
dreams by midday.

Your gifts linger, a
72-hour metro ticket
takes me on a red train
to green line, then
yellow line to find Zlicin
through the park to Zitna.

A hot day adorns
your head, along with
a baseball cap to keep
the sun away, a
thousand-koruna note,
gift for a weary traveler.

Franz Kafka, Adolf Born,
blond Chrystina in an Alfa Romeo
points out the world’s largest
castle, streets below
teeming with selfies and
a car that attracts attention.

Czech list of things to do,
dancing house beckons
as bridge traffic lessens on
way-finding maps to
a jazz club of singers,
drums, and saxophone tunes.

A kiss on the hand, a wave
goodbye from one train to another
as I dine alone next to
Charles Bridge, me and
my glass of red Bourguignon
from France, no Czech beer.

Laughter of child’s play
on monkey bars at a nearby park
makes music for my single dinner,
void of smiling Irish eyes,
no direction to
my last evening in Prague.

Lost in colors, I search
for the yellow ice cream cone
to lead me out of the
Namesti maze toward the Vystad
where I will drift
back to normalcy, if I can.

–Victoria Emmons
copyright 2017, Prague, CZ

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

The Summit

My open window reveals
a spring snowfall on the summit,
a fog obscuring white caps that
sleep forever at the highest point.

Misty rain turns to snow rising atop
my world. Nature paints a distinct line
around the mountains, a clear delination
between elevated snowflakes and freezing rain.

The season unpredictable, as is my life.
New growth attempts to bloom,
struggles to release itself, only to be
thwarted by a late wintry mix.

My own summit turns to snow, like the mountain.
I stare not out a window, but into a mirror
to observe its unpredictable journey
atop my crown.

White strands now invade a thick forest
once chestnut brown. As the mountain evolves,
so must I. My struggle with time will not
outlive the hillsides.

–Victoria Emmons, 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

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

If eyes could tell

If life resided in darkness, eyes disappeared into
caves where feelings navigate the world
amongst dangers of the sea,
who would be  
me?

If skies were never blue, only void of color and light,
causing fear in a vast unknown universe,
where would flowers
grow?

If bumps in the night, the ever present night,
were all that could be seen for miles of highway,
what road would we
take?

If life mirrored that of a blind cavefish,
born with vision lost to age and a film of
skin, a cataract of sorts,
how would we
see?

If age dissipated vision, unable to differentiate
black or white, left or right, male or female,
rich or poor, young or old, half or whole,
when would discrimination
vanish?

If life had no pigment, simply blank void where
reliance on touch, sound,
emotion guided every step,
could we escape larger prey for hundreds of thousands of
years?

If we escaped our fears, learned to love blindness,
to embrace what lives in the dark, to lie side by side,
skin to skin, smile to smile,
could we not better survive, like an ancient blind
fish?

–Victoria Emmons, 2017