A Blog of Seattle Arts & Lectures

“Inheritance,” by Janae Lu

You ask me what I will inherit,
You want the easy answer—the kind I would have given you as a child
When the glass was half full and full of fairytales,
3D printed hearts, primordial forests,
Cars made of sun, bodies on the moon.

Back then, the possibilities were infinite. People fell in love over binary codes,
Slayed dragons with cardboard signs, held bursting galaxies
In their own hands and gave them names of their own.

If you asked me then, what the human inheritance was,
I might have said magic or light or everything in-between.

You ask me what I will inherit,
I am 16 years old, coming of age,
And I don’t believe in fairytales anymore.

I have learned that physics is too cruel for bedtime stories
That the equal and opposite reaction forbids happy endings.
See, for every 3D printed heart beating in a body
There is a bomb that will render it useless.
For every forest that holds a universe and grows beyond measure,
There is a fire that will burn it down.
For every dragon who is slain
There is another who will take his place,
And another, and another, and another.

I have learned that we are too human for fairytales.
We build bridges, write books,
And burn them both
We breathe life into names and bury them beyond our memory,
Conjugating death until it is thin enough to forget.

I am 16 years old,
And I have watched the world try to end a thousand different times.

You ask me what I will inherit
And I,
I am too scared to tell you what I already know.
That this failure is our birthright, that our blood cannot be washed clean,
And if this is true, if our destiny is to be victims of entropy,
Then there are some things I don’t understand —

Like why every time the darkness tries to rise,
There is someone who tries to stop it.
Why every time we are given a reason to retreat into ourselves,
There is someone who extends a hand across the world.

Don’t they know our evils cannot be killed, only renamed?
Don’t they know there is no cure for the flaws in our bloodline?
How foolish it is to fight against our heritage,
Foolish, and futile,
And brave.

You ask me what I will inherit,
I am 16 years old,
And I have watched the world try to end a thousand times.
And I will watch us try to save it a thousand more.

Perhaps there is something more to this human inheritance,
Than darkness, and entropy,
Failure, and free fall —
Something you have to choose,
A belief that our inheritance can be greater than the sum of its parts.

Perhaps we have been choosing this all along.
I am not the first girl to come of age with the world mourning at her feet,
And each time we stand over this abyss, it is a little brighter, a little warmer, inside.

So this, this is the legacy I choose —
This foolish hope, this endless fight,
A thousand hands reaching through darkness
To offer their own little pieces of magic and light
Until someday the next girl who stands here, on this stage,
Will see only stars.




This poem was written by Janae Lu, as a 2023-24 Youth Poetry Fellow. Performed at the Seattle Arts & Lectures Literary Arts Series event with Matthew Desmond on Thursday, March 28th, 2024 at Town Hall Seattle.

Posted in Student WritingWriters in the SchoolsYouth Poet LaureateYouth Programs2023/24 Season