Inspired by a photo of a stranger on a friend's wall, Sharon Lask Munson's poem considers the nature of our relationships to our ancestors. Illustration by Yaimel Lopez.

Our children, of course,
retain memories — loving or not.

Grandchildren might remember
the pipe smell of Dunhill London

or sugar cookie dough,
rolled out on a kitchen counter.

For great-grandchildren,
a framed portrait

tucked away in the linen closet
is merely that of a stranger,

something to be added
to garage sale odds and ends

along with the chipped Wedgwood
no one in the family wants.

A great-great grandchild,
rummaging in a local junk shop

might spy a familiar likeness, framed —
heart-shaped face, jutting chin, widow’s peak,

something about the mouth, the jaw
and on a whim, claim the old canvas,

hang it beside a corner bookcase
filled with used novels bought in bulk

to make a new home ageless.

'Descendants' was published in our 14th issue, The Curious Issue, which has now sold out. To ensure that you never miss a future issue of the print magazine, subscribe from just £10 a year.