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His Inheritance

Bernadette Geyer

It took them one weekend to clear

their father’s small house of the things

that remained to testify his

being there, in Old Orchard Beach.

My husband and his sister sorted

their inheritance in the musty silence.

Most of it — newspaper and magazine

clippings, old bills — had already

been tossed by their father’s friend.

Only his brother’s knife from Iwojima,

some photos, and his writings remained.

The house of his self built with pen

and paper, vast and borderless, antithesis

of the wood-paneled two-room cottage

he rented because it was near the ocean

and because he knew some people there.

When my husband returned, he brought

his inheritance — the taped-up box

that sulked in the basement for years,

long enough that its presence

went unnoticed most days, until one of us

needed something from the box beneath it,

or the box behind it, and we

were obligated to wrestle with its heft,

until the year we uprooted ourselves,

passed on the box to his sister.

Except for the knife. You can use a knife.

Bernadette Geyer is the author of The Scabbard of Her Throat (The Word Works) and editor of My Cruel Invention: A Contemporary Poetry Anthology (Meerkat Press). Her writings have appeared in Barrow Street, The Massachusetts Review, Oxford American, and elsewhere. Geyer works as a writer and translator in Berlin, Germany.

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