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

Clean

I remember the 13 x 9 x 2 aluminum version
Carving out perfect brownies for a crowd
Or the glass model 8 x 6 x 2, the smaller size
For the rare few who stayed up late

I remember baked-on grease forever embedded
Into the fabric of the pans, creating their own
Modern artwork in a chaotic kitchen
The result of motherhood gone awry

Baking meant sustenance, but more than that
It revealed ingenious fortitude, cleverness and pride
Combined with creativity that surpassed all else
I remember that creativity, that strength

And I remember the love that went into each egg
Fried into a perfectly shaped circle inside a slice of bread
A circle that we called breakfast, along with crisp bacon
And always a glass of whole milk or juice, our choice

I remember taking turns at the bar, slipping onto a warm stool
In front of a previously occupied plate still wet with yellow yolk
That she shoved aside to replace with a new, warm toad
One that would be consumed in time to catch a school bus

I remember the burnt days, too, clouded with emotion
Fervent spirit doused for an hour or two, yet
Toad-in-a-hole breakfasts kept flying out of her kitchen
Into our hearts and souls, all four of us children

I remember her pans as I retrieve my own small one
From the dishwasher, not as clean as I would like
The glass still living with some of last night’s meal
My carelessness, the wrong machine setting

I remember we had no dishwasher then, a luxury,
Washed by hand, each greasy skillet or brownie pan
Thus why the grease remained, no doubt, what strength
Do children have to scrub away the toughest stains?

Tools at my disposal, I begin to work, fingers dry and sore
From steel wool combined with cleaning powder that
Lasts as long as I do to see every last speck of memory stain
Removed forever, or until the next chicken Marsala bakes

–Victoria Emmons, ¬©2017

Birthday Boxes

Three candles and chocolate cake
Crowned with vanilla ice cream
Balloons flutter and bob in the air
Too high to salvage

A young girl mouthes “Hi Daddy” in silence
Surrounded by a windy Hawaiian day
And friends around the birthday table
One sister on her right, another her left

The colorful scene on a bright morning
Forever captured in a 16-millimeter tin
When Mother baked specialties to please
And tied boxes with pretty bows

A perfect moment savored for all time
Until the next year arrives in glorious fashion
And another and another until finally
Surprise at number seventeen

Twelve friends hiding in a room
Offer sudden smiles, song and love
A pile of presents to open
Music and dancing fill the air

Fifty years, a second surprise
Colleagues appear unannounced
Claiming they knew not the day
The same as seventeen, only older

Laughter, gin and candles play
In the twilight of life
Gazing at photos that must be me
A younger, more attractive version

Each year, I succumb to the day
That I chose to enter the world
Bake my own cake, sweet frosting on top
Blow out the last candles

—Victoria Emmons, copyright 2017

Letters

First placed in a dresser drawer
Migrated to a shoebox
Burgeoned to a steamer trunk
Hidden away in a space in the wall
Letters kept safe over 50 years
Uncovered in a renovation

Home owners open them one by one
The story of two lovers unfolding on paper
Over time, through wars, marriage
And children born and died, the letters
Filled with life and hidden passion
Secrets that only lovers share

Those who discover the musings
Seek to find the children, now grown,
With no inkling of correspondence
Between mother and father, letters
Revealing struggles, patience, deep love
And devotion one to the other

Email is not wrapped in purple ribbon
Nor kept in a dresser drawer, perhaps
An iCloud drawer to be savored later
Or uncovered like Ashley Madison clients,
Not quite the same as thin Air Mail paper
With the familiar red, white and blue logo

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

Mother’s Day

As I get older
She fades just a little more
I try hard to remember
Try hard to find moments of love
Hugs and hearty breakfasts
Taxi duty and lessons in etiquette

I want to recall our 18 years
Together as mother and child
I try hard to remember
Her raucous laughter when
My sister made jokes about butterflies
Or the dog chewed up a pillow

I want to be in that moment
Relive my surprise birthday party
Family picnics at the zoo
Or the embarrassment of
Being 24 hours early
To a friend’s baby shower

I try hard to remember
Presents under a tree
A five-dollar bill mailed to France
To help pay for spring break
A torn hem in a wedding gown
Passed down for the ages

I try hard to remember
But my taste fades first
Cowboy cookies mailed in a neat box
Cherry pie under a sugary crust
Overcooked green beans
With bacon on the side

I try hard to remember
The smell of splattered grease on her apron
Orange rolls drizzled with white icing
A steaming cup of Folger’s instant coffee
Always instant, rarely ground
My nose no longer cooperates

I try hard to remember
Wrap my arms around her loving heart
To touch the silver watch
Too tight for her left wrist
And stop time forever
But touch is the next to go

I try hard to remember
The red lips painted on her pretty face
To match the colored fingernails
I replicate today
Her skin soft and smooth remains
A precious gift to me

I try, but it is hard to see
Unless I gaze in a mirror
Count the lines on my own face
Lines of time like hers
From laughter and tears
But my vision blurs now

I try hard to remember
Her loud wake-up calls
In early morning
As she flipped pancakes
And tried to roust the troops
Unwilling to face a new day

I listen and hear nothing
Of the countless story books
Read over and over
To an eager audience of children
And their friends always happy
To be at my house instead of theirs

I try hard to remember
Her sage advice as I stood there
On slippery courthouse steps
A marriage lost and long forgotten
A message of pride as to who I am
No matter the challenge life brings

But hearing also fades
The last to vanish

–Victoria Emmons, ¬©2015

Roses

Curved bowls long erased
carry the dust of roses
too fragile to remember
their sordid past

Nestled in a heap
dry as time evaporates
from lack of care
a monument of sorts

Recalling high school dances
faded photos of happy brides
birthday parties and cakes
an oak casket size small

Each flower breathes no more
colors faded from the original
attempt at beauty until passion
renews in one, sweet scent.

–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.

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Wente Concert Summer 2009

Palm trees wave at dusk
Blue backdrop to the stage
Backdrop to my memory
Of hits from the 70s

Graying heads bob
In rhythm to the music
Songs behind our minds
From a former time

A single lighter flame
Waves back and forth
Keeping time with
Familiar melodies

Others follow the lead
Of a digital flame
A sea of mechanical fire
Erupts in unison

Cheese on our knees
Share a Cabernet
Stars in the sky
Planes fly to SFO

The crowd is relaxed
So easy and free
Nothing less than
A three-song curtain call

Claps and whistles abound
An old man wearing a hat
Dances with a slender blond
The night’s still young

–Victoria Emmons, 2014