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

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

The Sting

of the palm
as it reaches
the cheek,
the innocent
cheek, all
glowing and pink.

The pain
of the sting
as it crosses
the lips,
the sensuous
lips, so
worthy and free.

The wrath
of the world
as it crushes
the head,
the pulsating
head, once
brilliant, now dead.

The sound
of the crowd
as it mimics
the man,
the jabbering
man, once
noble and proud.

The hush
of the wind
as it drifts through
the hair,
the beautiful
hair, all
silky and clean.

The joy
of the girl
as she opens
the lock,
the garden
unlocked, now
sodden and flush.

The birth
of the bud
as it carries
the sting,
the heart-wrenching
sting, all
hidden and fine.

The cry
of the babe
as he wants her
to stay,
the boy not
at play, so
tearful and pained.

The sting
of the palm
as it reaches
the cheek,
the hardening
cheek, all
knowing and deep.

The pain
of the sting
as it crosses
the heart,
the withering
heart, no
longer a part.

— Victoria Emmons ©2013

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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Honey

On the senior pages in my high school yearbook, the quote they chose to put under my picture is: “You can catch more flies with honey than you can with a fly swatter.” It was advice that my mother had always given us and I found that she was right. When kindness is shown, even to those who may not readily seem to deserve it, the reward is always with the giver. So I tried to be nice to everyone and I guess people noticed.

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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

One Ticket

Is enough
Two too many
To find a date
To wait and wait
For him to state
His intentions

One lonely ticket
Two far gone
To hear a sound
Of my past life
With my old man
His favorite song

One is okay
Not two or three
Or even four
Just one
One lonely life
To hear the score

Of violins and
Saxophone dreams
A piano note or two
Blend the cacophony
Of life together
With a single tune

–Victoria Emmons, © 2013