Sarah Giragosian

Contest - 2nd Place

Sarah Giragosian’s first book of poems Queer Fish won the 2014 American Poetry Journal Book Prize and will be published by Dream Horse Press in 2015. Her poems have been published in such journals as Crazyhorse, The Missouri Review, The Baltimore Review, and Blackbird, among others. She is a visiting lecturer in English at Bridgewater State University.


Family History

No god is more inscrutable than ours.
Think of how our century began: red fistfuls
of pomegranate blossoms knuckling the windows
in the early dawn, a warning missed and a call to rise.
And at the doors—the early monsters
of modernity, trained to be meticulous, expedient,
propitiated neither by suffering or the skirl of exile.
Think of your grandmother with her rabbit-beat heart
who knew something about hope’s atrophied muscles
and the secrets of rubies. She scooped pomegranate seeds
into her pockets, lined her body with an invisible god.
During the march, he roosted in her inner ear and whispered back
such strange flashes of memory: the first clean A
she played on her spiked fiddle, the last goat she skinned,
the wet cord that tied her to her son, the gleam of her sister’s scissors
that snipped it off, the gleam of the bayonet that killed him.
She watched her daughter’s ribs peek through the skin,
and in time, realized that god is anonymous
and intimate as a nurse who can deliver pain
or take it away in the same breath.
What do we say? Our family history?
A death sentence, and yet—
you breathe. You tell me the rest.

My father’s grandparents were survivors of the Armenian Genocide. I never knew them and my father recalls that they rarely discussed their personal histories. As trauma studies have indicated, many survivors of genocide conceal their memories of trauma from family members and the outside world. While there are elisions and silences in my family, I feel that the impact of their history still ‘speaks’ in ways that are just as powerful as speech. In this poem, I imagine my great-grandmother’s story.