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  • Let my Father's Will Be Undone
  • Karen Margolis (bio)

A verse screenplay in three acts

Cast: inmates of a doll's house

Narrator: the poet

Act One: Behind the Curtain

After the burialthe reading of the will:a private affair in a small circlebehind closed doors;(dodging inheritance taxis a game for wise guyswho know the ropes)

the Terrible Twins were shut out.

After the preamblethe meat of the matter: [End Page 92]

trusted names were namedsums added and subtractedand bonuses distributed(at least on paper)to a chosen few

the Terrible Twins were cut out.

After the clauses and caveatsunto the third or fourth generationthe cherries in the cake:sweet and fleshy, you can almost feelthe dark red juicesdribbling down the chinsof contented children

the Terrible Twins were starved out.

And after all the rest was read and done,the final clause a parting shotinto the heart of humanity:the whip of ostracismdriving out adopted children.In the end it's a questionof issue: blood and money

the Childless Twins were cruelly punished.

Chorus (all the trustees together):The father's estate was spelled out in wordsa quarter of a million pounds sterling and more.

Act Two: The Curtain Parts

Harsh-voiced our mother on the phone,"I heard you went to Probateand got your father's will.Why did you do that?" [End Page 93]

Rage surges in my answer:"Because I'm a beneficiary."

"No you're not."(Across the London-Berlin line our mothercan barely conceal the cackle of triumph.)"You're not even mentioned," she snaps.

"Yes I am." I know where I come from."The will says clearly: our father's issue."

"But that's discretionary," she parries(her tone a patronising smirk).Discretion dictatestwo discriminating parentseradicate their twin daughtersfrom their last will and testament.

At last I can laugh.I tell her it reminds me of Stalinwiping Trotsky out of the pictures—and hang up with an icepick in my heart.

Act Three: The Curtain Closes

Cursing my father for his weaknessthat left a legacy of internecine conflicthe sidestepped after death as in life,I take down the familiar photo of himone summer's day in the gardenbaby grandson chortling on his knee.On the wall beside my deskis a blank space to fill now.

The trust can enable:property deals in prime neighbourhoodsstock market speculation [End Page 94] private schools misnamed publicluxury holidays for children's childrenhandouts for discretionary beneficiariesand lavish expenses for wily administrators.

Trust is a word of many meaningsand all the benefits of ambiguity.Yet one thing is evidentin this mess of blood and money—my mother has broken trust with mesince way back beyond my memory.

But what of the rest of the trusted few?

Can I trust the younger sisterconsumed with thwarted ambition,lust for gold and age-old jealousy?

Can I trust the brother who inheritedour father's weakness and good natureand remains the baby of the family?

Or the uncle who cheated off-cameracanonised his wife for her timely demiselamed his son and lost his daughter?

Trust is a constellation of many coloursand none of the chosen few is true.

Epilogue: The Curtain Falls

Living out history in Berlinthrough all those hostile wintersin a cold war zoneand the long dreary aftermathof enforced adaptationwith so many false startsI was just beginning again [End Page 95] enjoying the fruits of creationthe taste of freedom when plucked in season.

Now a new iron curtainhas dropped like a guillotinecutting the tense wireto my past family.

Berlin-Schöneberg, September 2007 [End Page 96]
Karen Margolis

Karen Margolis was born in 1952 in Zimbabwe to a family of conservative Jewish Baltic origin. She spent her childhood in South Africa and in 1961 immigrated to London where she earned in 1974 a Mathematics degree. She has lived as a writer in Berlin since 1983 and is the author of books...


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pp. 92-96
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Archive Status
Archived 2012
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