Through a winter window

By Gay Baines

she saw, next to the pool, partly hidden,

a dark shape, a coat on a plastic chair, or

a branch from the dark box elder

that leans over the hooded

patio. Wind moved the shape,

and she saw it had an arm, two feet,

a sallow face that gazed eastward,

over the ice-sheeted pool, as if

waiting for a ship to plow through

the ice and greenish water

below the shroud of black plastic.

She waited, upstairs, her feet on the iron

register, feeling the heat rush up,

warming her morning-ached body,

and sensing she knew the entity

on the patio, and wanted to

leave it at that.

The sun warmed her cheek when

she went to the pool gate. The black

and white cat who lies on the hood

of her car slunk under the fence,

giving her a wary look. Was it you,

small fry? she asked, but the cat

hurtled out of the yard.

The dark cloak hung in the air by the cedar table,

unmoving. She unhooked the gate,

walked back to the patio. Expecting

a ghoul with a face out of Munch,

she found a shadow, a satellite-prickle

tiny squares gathering, fading, coalescing.

In a blink she saw a woman in a

black trench coat, with a pale face

that turned toward her, then gazed

east again – the dense pool, the

imaginary ship. What ship?

She knew the face, but it took two

weeks, rainy days, pouring over photos.

Here it was, the bottom of the box,

a soft face in a crowd, a black-and-white

taken years ago. Herself, at a time

of chaos, future and dreams.

GAY BAINES lives and writes in East Aurora. A longtime member of the Roycroft Wordsmiths, she is the co-owner and co-editor of July Literary Press.