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

Freeze Frame

Stuck in the age of Covid-19, racing to nowhere except a way out of this box to which the world has been condemned, a prison cell of prevention, or not, for those unlucky thousands who carry coronavirus with them to their graves, leaving the rest of us to worry about droplets lingering for days on Amazon delivery boxes, empty grocery store shelves, dirty gas pump handles, or our own Fido’s nose, even a child’s hand fresh from a playground jungle gym when the real jungle is Mother Earth spinning in all her infected glory, laughing as she twirls leaving that voice message that cries, “I told you so.”

—Victoria Emmons, copyright 2020

Birch Symphony

Her twigs whistle softly
Woodwinds not yet silenced
Still merry with seasonal change

Rustling leaves offer a hint of song
High notes and low ones
Orchestrated by the wind

Clever of the skies
To solicit mid-air composition
A subtle gift to my ears

Music for the heavens
And those who fly high
Above swooning branches

Melodies that dance forever
Join tiny voices of sparrows
And rouse cackling blackbirds

She gently touches her cloak
Slowly, then with vigor, she
Plunges through each chord

Mighty wind at her back
A gust arrives in D Minor
Blows her instrument awry

Her tempo changes,
Each prelude starts anew
A scorching endless song

Percussion at the ready
Clashing arms mere zest
To flute-like singing bees

That hum, dance and
Swirl to the sound
Of life in the making

Her symphony foretells
Desire, yet alas, quiet
When winter will silence her song

—Victoria Emmons, 2018

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

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

Benched

Resting on a makeshift
bench, stair steps to a porch
where imagination thrives.

In bounds. Our court, a driveway
whose lines dictate where
we can dribble, run and play.

Out of bounds. I teach you
the difference so you’ll know.

Too small to reach the hoop now,
some day you’ll make it look easy.

Tall and strong, smart and strategic
you are, my lad.

Bounce the ball to your teammate.
Keep defenders at bay. Run.
Breathe. Rest. Do it again.

Our basketball rolls into the snow,
wet, muddy and needing new air.
We play anyway in our
imaginary March Madness.

–Victoria Emmons, 2017

Dedication: This one is for you, Alex.

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

White Flag

Crown of the hillside stretches beyond
imagination farther than vision allows
to a divine world of plenty,
too precious to be mine.

Sparky and I follow the path across
a grassy meadow teeming with life that
foretells spring, falling snowflakes
a reminder that change comes with pain.

Bearable silence surrounds us, stunning and real,
envelopes us as if a cloak of solace has risen up
to engage. We stand amidst Heaven on Earth,
breathing in its glory and wonderment.

Creatures of all colors reside in harmony as sunset
overtakes the day, surpasses our wildest dreams.
Wildlife define their routines as we do ours,
cautious, yet equal, we walk similar paths.

A dozen white flags rise up on the horizon,
quiet and still at first, eyes watch, ears listen,
then tails wave madly, thundering out of fear
down into the valley the herd flies.

We stop, creep closer to the edge, observe the show
as ten or twelve deer race to safer ground.
Sparky raises her own little, white flag in tribute.
In silence, we walk on together, surrender to the hillside.

–Victoria Emmons, 2017