The legless man in the motel room next to me
listens to country and western music
all night, an endless song
about going down on his knees
for some faithless woman’s love.
I turn in my bed, thinking of you the day
we thought our daughter had gone
missing. The moment
before she disappeared you’d seen a stranger
on the block, the kind who wore
a stained suit from the Sally Ann, the kind
who couldn’t know innocence
existed. Our daughter was supposed to be
next door, playing in the fenced yard
with two neighbour boys. You’d been
on the phone and I’d turned my back
on the moment to do something
predictable — move the garden sprinkler,
open the morning mail — acts
that would never again seem so ordinary
once we’d made up our minds
between burial or cremation. Your body
had never felt so alive as you took off
in the car, driving down
every back lane, listening for her
glove-muffled cries. You drove
deeper and deeper into the kind of hell
we reserve for ourselves and never want
our children to have to know. You knew
at this moment she could only be suffering
in the hands of that stranger who would afterwards
stuff her trusting body into a single forest
green Glad bag, then tote her to the park.
They would find her legs first, dangling
from the swing, shoes on the wrong feet
as usual, arms hanging from the jungle
gym. I’d want to touch, to straighten
her turned-in toes: how clumsily
we lived on this earth!
She was lost only for a moment, locked
in a spare bedroom with the two boys
next door, not wanting their privacy interrupted,
but in that moment when she was gone
forever, death in all his beautiful variety
sang to us, off-key and aching
inside our cheated hearts.
—Susan Musgrave, The Moment
After reading Things That Keep And Do Not Change, I deleted my poetry/prose section. There is nothing that I could ever write that would actually be considered as such. Susan Musgrave has put me to shame.
She writes so…ghastly, so raw, so erotically, and so piercingly. It’s unbelievable how she can come up with the ideas in her poems; often it’s as if she’s lived in that moment and describes what she sees. And yet, one knows that she only creates the images she talks about because of their very permanent and scarring nature. One of my favourite things about her writing style is the way she begins with a very ordinary situation and leads the reader along with her thought pattern.
The way she sees the simple things around her with such vivacity, the passion and emotion she expresses in her written voice, the poignant way in which she views the world…she is someone who lives life to the highest degree.
And some day I hope to do the same.