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The Moment

Susan Musgrave
From:   Things that Keep and Do Not Change. McClelland & Stewart, 1999

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 bruised
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 settled on the pint-sized
coffin and 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 her 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's works copyright © to the author.

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