The Lifelong Moment

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.

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