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Inheritance—His Analysis

Author: poem of Audre Lorde Type: poem Views: 34

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My face resembles your face

less and less each day. When I was young

no one mistook whose child I was.

Features build coloring

alone among my creamy fine-boned sisters

marked me Byron's daughter.

No sun set when you died, but a door

opened onto my mother. After you left

she grieved her crumpled world aloft

an iron fist sweated with business symbols

a printed blotter dwell in the house of Lord's

your hollow voice changing down a hospital corridor

     yea, though I walk through the valley

     of the shadow of death

     I will fear no evil.


I rummage through the deaths you lived

swaying on a bridge of question.

At seven     in Barbados

dropped into your unknown father's life

your courage vault from his tailor's table

back to the sea.

Did the Grenada treeferns sing

your 15th summer as you jumped ship

to seek your mother

finding her     too late

surrounded with new sons?

Who did you bury to become the enforcer of the law

the handsome legend

before whose raised arm even trees wept

a man of deep and wordless passion

who wanted sons and got five girls?

You left the first two scratching in a treefern's shade

the youngest is a renegade poet

searching for your answer in my blood.

My mother's Grenville tales

spin through early summer evenings.

But you refused to speak of home

of stepping proud Black and penniless

into this land where only white men

ruled by money. How you labored

in the docks of the Hotel Astor

your bright wife a chambermaid upstairs

welded love and survival to ambition

as the land of promise withered

crashed the hotel closed

and you peddle dawn-bought apples

from a push-cart on Broadway.

Does an image of return

wealthy and triumphant

warm your chilblained fingers

as you count coins in the Manhattan snow

or is it only Linda

who dreams of home?

When my mother's first-born cries for milk

in the brutal city winter

do the faces of your other daughters dim

like the image of the treeferned yard

where a dark girl first cooked for you

and her ash heap still smells of curry?


Did the secret of my sisters steal your tongue

like I stole money from your midnight pockets

stubborn and quaking

as you threaten to shoot me if I am the one?

The naked lightbulbs in our kitchen ceiling

glint off your service revolver

as you load     whispering.

Did two little dark girls in Grenada

dart like flying fish

between your averted eyes

and my pajamaless body

our last adolescent summer?

Eavesdropped orations

to your shaving mirror

our most intense conversations

were you practicing how to tell me

of my twin sisters     abandoned

as you had been abandoned

by another Black woman seeking

her fortune     Grenada     Barbados

Panama     Grenada.

New York City.


You bought old books at auctions

for my unlanguaged world

gave me your idols Marcus Garvey Citizen Kane

and morsels from your dinner plate

when I was seven.

I owe you my Dahomeyan jaw

the free high school for gifted girls

no one else thought I should attend

and the darkness that we share.

Our deepest bonds remain

the mirror and the gun.


An elderly Black judge

known for his way with women

visits this island where I live

shakes my hand, smiling.

"I knew your father," he says

"quite a man!" Smiles again.

I flinch at his raised eyebrow.

A long-gone woman's voice

lashes out at me in parting

"You will never be satisfied

until you have the whole world

in your bed!"

Now I am older than you were when you died

overwork and silence exploding your brain.

You are gradually receding from my face.

Who were you outside the 23rd Psalm?

Knowing so little

how did I become so much

like you?

Your hunger for rectitude

blossoms into rage

the hot tears of mourning

never shed for you before

your twisted measurements

the agony of denial

the power of unshared secrets.

Anonymous submission.


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