You Didn’t Fit

for my father

You wouldn’t fit in your coffin

but to me it was no surprise.

All your life you had never fit in

anywhere; you saw no reason to 

begin fitting in now.


When I was little I remember

a sheriff coming. You were

taken to court because your

false teeth didn’t fit and you

wouldn’t pay the dentist. It was 

your third set, you said none of them

fit properly. I was afraid then

that something would take you from me

as it has done now: death 

with a bright face and teeth that

fit perfectly.


A human smile that shuts me out.

The Court, I remember, returned

your teeth, now marked an exhibit. 

You were dismissed with costs—

I never understood. The teeth were

terrible. We liked you better

without them.


We didn’t fit, either, into your

life or your loneliness, though you 

tried, and we did too. Once

I wanted to marry you, and then left;

I’m still the child who won’t fit

into the arms of anyone, but is

always reaching.


I was awkward for years, my bones

didn’t fit in my body but stuck out

like my heart—people used to comment

on it. They said I was very good

at office parties where you took me

and let others do the talking—the 

crude jokes, the corny men—I saw

how they hurt you and I loved you

harder than ever.


Because neither of us fit. Later you

blamed me, said “You must fit in,”  

but I didn’t and I still think 

it made you secretly happy.


Like I am now: you don’t fit in your

coffin. My mother, after a life

of if, says, “This is the last straw.”

And it is. We’re all clutching. 

Bibliographical info

Susan Musgrave for “You Didn’t Fit” originally appeared in What The Small Day Cannot Hold, (Beach Holme Publishing, 2000) by permission of Dundurn Press Limited.

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