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'Inheritance' by poet Jen Siraganian

Los Gatos Poet Laureate Jen Siraganian reads her poem "Inheritance." Jen is a writer, educator, and literary organizer. She has served as Managing Director for Litquake: San Francisco’s Literary Festival, been nominated for a Ruth Lilly Fellowship and a Pushcart Prize, earned scholarships from Community of Writers at Squaw Valley and Napa Valley Writers’ Conference, and authored a poetry chapbook titled “Fracture.” Her writing has appeared in Best New Poets 2016, Cream City Review, Mid-American Review, Smartish Pace, Barrow Street, Southwest Review, Not Somewhere Else But Here: A Contemporary Anthology of Women and Place, and other literary journals and anthologies.


They found that the sons of Union Army soldiers who endured grueling conditions as prisoners of war were more likely to die young than the sons of soldiers who were not prisoners. This is despite the fact that the sons were born after the war, so they couldn’t have experienced its horrors personally. In other words, it seemed like the stresses of war were getting passed down between generations. -Olga Khazan, “Inherited Trauma Shapes Your Health,” The Atlantic, October 16, 2018

I slipped from their bodies, became

another body, my DNA stained

with the unlimitedness of their loss.

They, orphaned for being Armenian,

waited for parents and siblings to wake,

looked for someone to take them in,

but they were alone. What does it

mean to live when others want you dead?

Who am I to understand?

I’ve tried to find homes

for their stories, but mostly they reside

in my sloughed skin, a hangnail, a speck

of saliva, how something deep

in my body knows what it is

to be hunted.

Jen Siraganian