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Short poem

Rosemary Sullivan (1947-)

The Witness

              1I have to admit it's a strange feeling
              2to blow your wife away,
              3he said and kind of smiled.
              4The words hooked me -- they reeled me in.
              5Something in a woman loves a murderer.
              6Sex is the bargain
              7we always arrange to lose.

              8He plotted the murder for years
              9out in the desert with a hand gun
            10snapping necks off empty Perrier bottles.
            11Each one was human.
            12He was back before dark
            13for a round of golf with his kids.

            14I was the witness listening
            15for coded messages from the long-distance
            16absence where he lived.
            17"I'm going out now," he'd say.
            18This may be the night. Stick around
            19before he slipped on his orange wig
            20and slid behind the Olds
            21to cruise the streets.
            22Once he shot through the window.
            23He laughed after.
            24Hadn't gauged the thickness of the glass;
            25the bullet a slain thing in snow.
            26The police forgot to check him,
            27forgot that a man always wanted to kill his wife.

            28I laughed with him.
            29The sex was good that night.
            30He was charming.
            31And deadly.
            32I'd learned the art of those moods.
            33Sex is death;
            34the hot sticky sinking that makes and breaks you.
            35Loved like death.
            36I watched the bruises swell on the face
            37that wasn't my face
            38but a child's cowering in a corner
            39waiting for the rip of love.
            40In that violence at least
            41I knew I was owned.

            42I tried to kill myself once with 292s
            43but that was silly.
            44He reminded me of the rules:
            45I was the weak one.
            46If I left I would die more quickly
            47than if I stayed.
            48Things made sense that way.
            49He was the man in the silk suit
            50who came first-class.
            51He'd crawled into my body
            52looking for his life.
            53If he lashed out like a wounded thing,
            54he was the hurt one everyone failed.
            55Maybe I could save him
            56staring out at the world
            57across his need.
            58But my body was useless.
            59Inside something sad was loose.
            60It listened and feared and thought
            61but was never enough.
            62It was ashamed to show itself.
            63It deserved to die.

            64Then I saw the woman's picture in the newspaper.
            65He'd held her like a dog by the collar
            66and slashed her face.
            67Her broken wrist and hand
            68twisted at her side.
            69I was outraged.
            70Death should be clean not vulgar,
            71the necessary death
            72of love.

            73When I called the police
            74I said only
            75I never lied. I did nothing.
            76Anyway, he wasn't the kind of man
            77worth dying for.


10] Perrier: commercial brand of spring and carbonated water.

20] Olds: Oldsmobile (car).

42] 292s: a powerful painkiller in pill form.

Online text copyright © 2004, Ian Lancashire for the Department of English, University of Toronto.
This poem cannot be published anywhere without the written consent of Rosemary Sullivan or Black Moss Press permissions department.
Published by the Web Development Group, Information Technology Services, University of Toronto Libraries.

Original text: The Space a Name Makes (Toronto: Black Moss Press, 1986): 49-50. PS 8587 .U52 S6 Robarts Library
RPO poem editor: Ian Lancashire
RP edition: 2004
Recent editing: 1:2004/7/15

Other poems by Rosemary Sullivan