What We Inherit
by Gerry Stewart
After a passing, they come, family
turning over the stones of a life
to see what glitters beneath.
They remember or invent debts,
forget their own lapses,
a brother who did not hold
their mother’s hands as death took its fee,
a sister resenting the burden of caring.
They scrape the leftovers into piles
to be divvied up,
tasting the ash of the others’ gains.
How fragile that bond
to snap under the weight of want,
a rotten branch
or the heartwood weak.
It bleeds through our family,
cutting my great-aunt off,
infecting her father to son,
down to my father to son.
Generations broken, I carry the weight,
until the last visit to my grandfather,
I ask why we let the silence hover,
rippling beyond us to my children.
He shares regret over the time lost,
but blame still trickles over his lips
instead of tears, if only we hadn’t . . .
I step away and leave death to close the door.