This July 2021, Lyricality’s Founder and Director Tracy Rittmueller shares 4 poems that reveal some similarities between poetry and prayer.

Amending an Inheritance by Beth Spencer is like a prayer of confession and repentance, embodying a desire for people to overcome past and repeated failings, to be and do better. You may notice the second stanza of this poem has fewer lines than the first, perhaps alluding to the universal belief that human transformation involves pruning. Also pay attention to the way she uses traditionally “religious” language to challenge patriarchal and intergenerational violence. The title tells us this poem does not disown its inheritance. Instead it redeems, insisting the heir deserved and will pass on something better.  

Tracy Rittmueller

Amending an Inheritance
by Beth Spencer

About shame, I am an expert, wrong in my very
being. Educated early, some might even say,
completely. The lessons that you taught me
daily learned. Years on, I am still quick to duck
even though it may be only someone waving at me
friendly. My body believes the peril that I need
guard my head from the thump of both your ghostly
hands. Though you are now just leathered skin and bones
inside a casket slid into a drawer, your dark
judgement still echoes in my body which has
kept it cradled safe. Like the family silver this
legacy was gifted to you too, passed on, and now it’s
mine. Father, I have honored you. And
now my shame is doubled. My children raised,
opened to the taint of shame by the wide blade of my ignorance.

Pretend that there might be a path, what a
queer consideration for us who breathe restricted, to
remember what we never lived, imagining
some different, undefended way
to be alive, our shoulders down, our heads held up,
united in a novel trust. Let’s stop the spread, this
virus this disbelief in our own merit. Our very
worth can be redeemed, can be lifted from the
xeric place that stunted it. Surrender to the
yearning to be huge. Release the old worn stories. Be
zealous in the husbandry of this new truth.


Beth Spencer enjoys living in Minnesota. She has published a chapbook, “Mill Door” and her first poetry book, “C- in Conduct.” She has been published in Wisconsin Review, Rag Mag, Wisconsin Poets’ Calendar, Carve magazine, among others. Her essay on teaching appeared in a Geraldine R Dodge project, A Passion for Teaching. She lives a few months each year in San Miguel de Allende, where she enjoys the contrast between the Minnesota winters and those of central Mexico.

“Amending an Inheritance” by Beth Spencer appears here with permission of the author.

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