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.