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The Witness

Rosemary Sullivan
From:   a sequence of 6 poems called "Love Story"
in The Space A Name Makes. Black Moss Press, 1986. p 49-50

I have to admit it's a strange feeling
to blow your wife away
he said and kind of smiled.
The words hooked me — they reeled me in.
Something in a woman loves a murderer.
Sex is the bargain
we always arrange to lose.

He plotted the murder for years
out in the desert with a hand gun
snapping necks off empty Perrier bottles.
Each one was human.
He was back before dark
for a round of golf with his kids.

I was the witness listening
for coded messages from the long-distance
absence where he lived.
"I'm going out now," he'd say.
This may be the night. Stick around
before he slipped on his orange wig
and slid behind the Olds
to cruise the streets.
Once he shot through the window.
He laughed after.
Hadn't gauged the thickness of the glass;
the bullet a slain thing in snow.
The police forgot to check him,
forgot that a man always wanted to kill his wife.

I laughed with him.
The sex was good that night.
He was charming.
And deadly.
I'd learned the art of those moods.
Sex is death;
the hot sticky sinking that makes and breaks you.
Loved like death.
I watched the bruises swell on the face
that wasn't my face
but a child's cowering in the corner
waiting for the rip of love.
In that violence at least
I knew I was owned.

I tried to kill myself once with 292s
but that was silly.
He reminded me of the rules:
I was the weak one.
If I left I would die more quickly
than if I stayed.
Things made sense that way.
He was the man in the silk suit
who came first-class.
He'd crawled into my body
looking for his life.
If he lashed out like a wounded thing,
he was the hurt one everyone failed.
Maybe I could save him
staring out at the world
across his need.
But my body was useless.
Inside something sad was loose.
It listened and feared and thought
but was never enough.
It was ashamed to show itself.
It deserved to die.

Then I saw the woman's picture in the newspaper.
He'd held her like a dog by the collar
and slashed her face.
Her broken wrist and hand
twisted at her side.
I was outraged.
Death should be clean not vulgar,
the necessary death
of love.

When I called the police
I said I never lied.
I just did nothing.
Anyway, he wasn't the kind of man
worth dying for.

Rosemary Sullivan's works copyright © to the author.

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