The hurricane expert
talked of wind speeds,
probable damage, sweeping
his left hand over a map of the
East Coast. Behind him, in
another room, in silence,
a girl in a red shirt,
her dark hair a ponytail,
gazed raptly before her,
her profile so still I thought
she was perhaps a picture.
As I watched, she swiftly
lifted her chin, turned toward me
(and the camera), and gazed
behind her, a look of loss and
puzzlement on her face. After
a moment, she turned back
to the screen, or whatever it was
that held her attention earlier.
Did she sense my gaze? Or was it my
gaze and the gaze of a million others―
the hurricane no longer of interest
(Won’t bother us, so the heck with it)―
that made us all see her, wonder who
she was, what her task, and why the
look of misery and resignation?
The cat curls, a C of pale fur
with blue batwing ears, in my lap.
I’m reading in bed, tomorrow
a workday if there’s no blizzard.
I’m reading Atwood, or Coetzee,
or Munro. Behind me in dusty dusk
a sound, skitter, shiver of something
small and secret. The cat’s head rises,
eyes pools of suspicion. What is it,
I ask him, but he stares past me.
Suddenly the air is full of Old Spice.
The only scent you would use,
and then only in summer. I turn
to look at the bottle, still on the
dresser. It is closed. You hadn’t
opened it for two years, as you drank
and harangued yourself to stall
the stalking, eerily benign
knowledge of death. A week ago
I watched the cat reach up
into one of your coats,
following your scent.
My heart ached for his longing,
for his inability to know,
but now I realize
that even knowing is no solace.
Except for Joplin’s rag,
Solace does not exist.
by Gay Baines
Gay Baines lives in East Aurora, New York, and is a member of the Roycroft Wordsmiths. She has a B.A. in English from Russell Sage College and has done graduate work at Syracuse University and SUNY – Buffalo. She won the National Writers Union Poetry Prize in 1991, Honorable Mention in the Ruth Cable Memorial Poetry Contest in 1996, and the 2008 Mary Roelofs Stott Award for poetry, as well as other prizes. Her poems, essays, and short stories have appeared or are forthcoming in over 50 literary journals, including 13th Moon, Alabama Literary, Amarillo Bay, Anemone Sidecar, Atlanta Review, The Baltimore Review, Bayou, Caveat Lector, Cimarron Review, Cloudbank, Confluence, Confrontation, Controlled Burn, Crack the Spine, Crate Literary Magazine, Dislocate, Eclectica, Eclipse, Edison Literary Review, The Evansville Review, Forge, Grey Sparrow, Hampden-Sydney Poetry Review, Jabberwock Review, Louisiana Literature, Nimrod International Journal, Oregon East, Phoebe, The Pinch, poemmemoirstory, Poet Lore, Queen’s Quarterly, Quiddity Literary Journal, RE:AL, Rosebud, Serving House Journal, Slipstream, South Carolina Review, Talking River, The Tampa Review, The Texas Review, Tiger’s Eye, Verdad, Westview, Whiskey Island, Willow Review, Wisconsin Review, and Zone 3.