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

Sole Survivor

I am the sole guest
At my dinner table
No one to please
Save my own palate

The hour is late
As work takes over
On this holiday week
With no one to share

A Roomful of Blues
Plays Solid Jam
Awakening my soul
Soul of another kind

I scour cookbooks
For fresh recipes
Savor Gouda and gherkins
With a vodka chase

My kitchen dance begins
10 o’clock piano jazz
And smooth lyrics
To hide my fears

Let me love you, baby
He repeats throughout
A tune that will fade
As love fades, too, after a while

Butter sizzles in the pan
Hot pools of taste
Wait for the main dish
Washed and patted dry

Flour encases the fillets
Protects them from harm
Wish it were so easy
To protect me, too

Wrapped in flour
Browned and moist
Seasoned well over time
Sole Meunière survives

–Victoria Emmons,  Copyright 2014

My Every Breath

Take it away
My every breath
Never to return

You gave me life
Deepest hope
Beautiful laughter

Those words you sent
In a tiny box
Magnified our love

We were sixteen
Or so it felt
For a while

The many years
Months, days
And hours

Became nothing
More than minutes
Counting morphine

–Victoria Emmons ©2011

Coyote Morning

A defiant coyote tested me one morning. Just like that coyote I remember from the cartoons my father used to read us when I was a kid. The cartoonist portrayed his coyote as the dumb one forever missing his prey. That invented coyote lived in the desert and he was very persistent. He was relentless in his pursuit of a hard-won meal. But he chased a very smart cartoon roadrunner.

What I learned from the cartoon coyote was to never give up. No matter how hard the goal, no matter how many obstacles, never give up hope. So on this one morning I was also persistent.

I trust my dog Allie explicitly. She is very selective about voicing her opinion. Once when she would not stop barking, it was because a rattlesnake was curled up in her doghouse. We had to call the animal control people to capture and remove the huge snake. So when Allie alerts me to something amiss, I pay attention.

She had given me some advance warning. The night before, she pawed at the door to be let out, whining and impatient. As I opened the sliding glass, she darted out and immediately began to bark at the darkness beyond the fence enclosing my backyard. She leaped up anxiously to the flowerbeds and stared through the wire as she continued her menacing noise.

Allie has never had much of an accent, just pure dog, a joyful blend of Yellow Lab and Boxer. Her sound is not quite as deep as her stepsister Birdie, a mix of Border Collie and Airedale Terrier, whose voice will put the fear into any creature — canine, feline or homo sapiens. Allie appeared fretful that night. She wanted to conquer whatever was lurking beyond my view. I called her back inside and the rest of the evening was quiet.

The next morning, I went downstairs to let the dogs out for their usual morning stroll around the yard, sniffing at bushes and relieving themselves. I prepared their breakfast.

At 15 years old, Birdie gets three pain pills daily to manage her advancing arthritis. She has figured out that the tasty pill pockets I bought are designed to hide the sour tasting medicine, so I have resorted to peanut butter as a mask for getting her to swallow the painkillers. She licks the spoon eagerly and the nasty pills along with the gooey peanut butter. Once all medicines have been administered, the dogs follow closely to my heels as I carry bowls filled with rations of kibbles. Their mouths salivate and barely allow me enough time to place their breakfast on the deck before they devour the food.

After feeding the dogs, I returned indoors and went upstairs to get ready for work. Then the barking started again. Annoyed at the interruption, I walked into the guest bedroom so I could get a better view of the backyard and the reason for the barking. An out-of-focus creature was standing in the field just beyond the back fence. I had my suspicions, but I wasn’t wearing my contacts. I raced back to my bedroom, grabbed my glasses, and returned to the guest-room window. There he was, now clear as could be. The coyote.

Allie and Birdie were both barking in unison at this point, hugging the fence as closely as they could get to their wild canine brethren. Still in my nightgown, I ran downstairs to see how I could affect the outcome of this early morning encounter.

The visitor was nonchalant. His brown coat nearly blended in with the summer grasses that cover our California hillsides. We are in a drought and animals seek water wherever they can find it. I am usually happy to share whatever I have with the wildlife that live around my house, but a coyote could kill one of my cats. They are to be feared.

I puffed myself up like a cat protecting its territory, trying to be as ferocious as possible.

“Shoo!” I said to the coyote, raising my arms in an attempt to frighten him.

He lifted his head from whatever he had been licking on the ground and stared at me intently. For a moment, our eyes were locked. He returned to his feast.

“Shoo! Shoo!” I tried a second time.

Ever feel like you are in a cartoon? That moment, I could have drawn a wonderful picture of coyote versus human and dogs. Coyote (1) and Human/Dogs (0).

The coyote clearly had the upper hand. He somehow knew that a tall fence separated him from the barking dogs and me. He was in his safe territory and we were in ours. So what was the big deal?

I searched around the yard for a rock or something else I could throw at him, but without success. Allie’s tennis ball was nowhere to be found. I would have easily sacrificed that. My next idea was water.

I set the hose to jet mode and aimed it over the fence in the direction of the coyote. I knew the water would not reach him, but it would be close enough and perhaps convince him to safely depart the neighborhood. The water flowed like rain into the dry grass, a mist of comfort, no doubt, to an animal seeking sustenance. He stood in the mist for a moment, relishing the rain. And then he turned and ran, but only a few feet before he stopped to look at me again.

We stared at one another. Two wild animals, loners from the pack, each of us just trying to survive.

My dogs continued their incessant barking, uneasy with this foreigner in their midst. The coyote was brave. He was defiant. He took risks.

Eventually the animal trotted off across the meadow and into the safety of the woods. I hope he returns some day.