CLAUDIA EMERSON


  Cat Lady


  Ours was a widow, childless. We knew she wore
  that bathrobe in the daytime, smoked Camels, and drove

  the flat-black Pontiac that had grown old with her.
  And we knew about the cats. When we came to deliver

  her groceries, or rake leaves, we could see
  through her back door: they were perched on the pie safe,

  the refrigerator, the kitchen table—shadow-
  quiet, watchful as owls at dusk. And the smell

  was not just of cat-piss and foul tinned fish
  but of something more—the heat of cats’ yawning,

  an old woman’s long and smoky hair. We could never
  describe it—and could not help imagining

  out of that quiet the sound of urgent nursing
  from glistening knots of newborn kittens,

  the wail and hiss of mating, dying, the beat of all those hearts.
CAVE WALL PRESS, LLC
Claudia Emerson earned her BA from the University of Virginia and her MFA from
the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, where she was poetry editor for
The
Greensboro Review
. Her poems have appeared in Poetry, Smartish Pace, The
Southern Review, Shenandoah, TriQuarterly, Crazyhorse, New England
Review,
and other journals.  Pharaoh, Pharaoh (1997), Pinion, An Elegy (2002),
and
Late Wife (2005) were published as part of Louisiana State University Press’s
signature series, Southern Messenger Poets.  Late Wife won the 2006 Pulitzer Prize for
poetry. She is Professor of English and Arrington Distinguished Chair in Poetry at Mary
Washington College in Fredericksburg, Virginia.