Poem of the Week

Inheritance

Kelan Nee

I was eleven. My father called. G was dead. 18.
My cousin. Hooked on heroin, hit a cop across the face
with a 2x4, high, in the middle of Lowe’s. He saw a chance
and took it. Hanged himself with his bedsheets in the criminal
hospital. When I started crying, my dad told me to stop.
When I asked questions, he answered them.
He never lied to me.

He was coming home, for the wake and funeral, to wrap
his sister in his arms. He was sober then and thought
he was sober for good. It was winter in Massachusetts, and so,
like every other place with snow on the ground, small stars
and the thin moon hanging above, it never quite got dark.
I remember his voice. What he said before he hung up. Listen.
Your mother and me would never do anything like this.
You hear me?

I remember my father’s freckled hands on my shoulders
as men lowered my cousin into a hole. That a machine had to do
the digging, the dirt too hard for a shovel. And my father’s tie.
The colors, muted and washed. The one he gave me. It was too big
for me then, but fit when I wore it to his funeral five years later.
He had put it around my neck, showed me how to make a knot
and slip it up. So that it was tight, but not too tight,
against my throat.

Kelan Nee is a poet and carpenter from Arlington, Massachusetts. He holds an MFA from Washington University in St. Louis, was a finalist for the Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Fellowship, and received an Academy of American Poets prize.
Originally published:
April 6, 2022

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