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Poetry and Medicine
November 14, 2001

Inheritance

Author Affiliations
 

Poetry and Medicine Section Editor: Charlene Breedlove, Associate Editor.

JAMA. 2001;286(18):2208. doi:10.1001/jama.286.18.2208

I am not ready to surrender
my ticket for the great genetic game
to the feathered basket
where I leave the keys and dreams I no longer use.
I would like to keep my half a chance
that someone will inherit my face, my bones:
down to those cracked toenails, perhaps,
that I ridicule—
my father said that his became that way
when his boots slit in all his Februaries upon ice
and that mine despite the firmest shoes
were a mystery.
And the eyes with their damson rims
passed down to my mother from her mother:
I will not bequeath them to a cousin's daughter.
Not yet. Some day a child
from a forbidden city of porcelain and tapestries
will acquire the curved ends of our lips in a smile
and what small goods of mind remain of us
along with my fine spoons,
a gift from childless aunt to childless aunt.
Then I'll thank that unknown man
who drove a gift of tulips to the wrong address
and claimed he left them
with the woman with the sexy feet—
our story of his flattery
as my chattel for inheritance.

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