Exculpatory Lilies - Excerpt
Exculpatory Lilies

a book of poetry by Susan Musgrave

EXCERPT

“Good Friday, the day they delivered
that sad bouquet, was the day our cat
ran out on the road and failed to look
both ways. I’d stashed the candy eggs
under the sink, in their pink raffia nests,
safe amongst the household poisons
where the kids had been warned not to go:
on Easter Sunday before first light
I stole outside to hide the loot: the family
of bunnies in gold foil, the high quality
chocolate you insisted on buying—
nothing’s too good for my girls! The lilies,
smacking of humility, devotion, had been
for me—your way of saying sorry, I can stop,
I will lose the needle and spoon today

but I was finished, I was through, said sorry
had been your default setting since the day
we vowed I do. I think, now, I was cruel.

 

The cat darted out, hit the car, staggered back
as far as our front gate; for a second I thought
she might have been stunned, nothing more,
though the dribble of blood at the corners of her
mouth was a small grief with a life of its own.
I buried her at the bottom of the garden
where I had tossed your exculpatory lilies.

 

And where I picture them still. Each new day
above ground is a hard miracle, you wrote;
I hung on every miraculous breath you took
as I stood outside your door at night, dying
to hear you breathe. In the end it wasn’t me
you turned to, but God: wasn’t love meant to be
more pure than faith, more sacred and enduring?
These days I lean heavy into the wind
and the wind’s blowing hard.”

 

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