Friday, April 26, 2024

Jen Siraganian: How To Teach Atom Egoyan’s Ararat To Twelfth Graders

Pause the film. Ask them to Google the Armenian Genocide.

Lazy but keeps my voice from quaking.

A girl in a hoodie looks up from her computer,

why weren’t we taught this in school?

Toss (underhand) key words. Denial. Forgetting. Jailed journalists.

One student asks to be excused,

half-hides his phone in his sleeve. Is he Turkish

or just rejected from Stanford?

Don’t tell them I’m Armenian. 

A colleague told me she recommended a book

about the genocide to her student. She was called

into the headmaster’s office the next day.

Turn the movie back on. 

The boy and his phone haven’t returned.

Maybe he’s texting his mom. Maybe I’ll be fired.

A moth lands on the screen. I swat it away.

Don’t nudge the girl in the hoodie when she falls asleep. 

The boy slips back in the room as a mother

is raped on a horse cart. The camera tilts down.

She is holding her daughter’s hand. 

Mention nothing about this morning, wrapping a towel around my hair, asking the shower-steamed mirror if Turks would take me.

After the credits, a girl comments,

Schindler’s List made me feel more. Another

complains, the Turks were too villainized.  

As they leave class, don’t speak of my grandmother who was raped, or what happened to her mother. Smile, the secrets lodged like seeds in teeth.


Jen Siraganian, Los Gatos Poet Laureate, has been featured in San Francisco Chronicle, the Mercury News, and NPR’s KALW. Her chapbook Fracture was released in 2014, and her writing has appeared in Best New Poets, Southwest Review, Cream City Review, Mid-American Review, and other journals and anthologies.

Reprinted from MIZNA

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