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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.

Exculpatory Lilies

Susan Musgrave

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translated from the Ukrainian written by
Halyna Kruk