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Image by Heather Mount


with the martello journal

סקין / Scian

by reyzl grace

The Qur’an says that God is nearer to man
than his jugular vein,
forbids consanguineous marriages—
blood always a proxy for proximity.

Perhaps it is the iron in it that always points
to where things truly are; they say
that Uthman’s killer spilled his blood
first upon the page of his Qur’an,

verse 8:64—“Allah is sufficient for you,
and for the believers who will follow you.”
Who can doubt his repose? —Uthman,
who argued the caliph need not go

to Jerusalem to receive the city?
So the Bundists said, too, at home in Poland
and the Pale, naming Zion a fool’s errand
for those too impatient of the Revolution

(which is but the socialist’s name for God).
They might have been right, had the Germans
not switched from shootings to gas
so that their blood on the soil would not testify

of their doykayt—their ‘here-ness’—in Europe.
And so the half of my blood, with nowhere
else to flow, spilled into Palestine,
opening jugulars to look for God.

The other half had left Ireland too soon
to hear Lady Desart preach the Hebrew revival
as a model for Gaelic. Their blood was thin
from hunger, and the Sasanaigh

didn’t care much where it fell—dripped it
across the colonies so that they, too,

like Britain’s other mandates, might be
overpromised lands where God does not suffice.

Each year, at the Seder, we eat potatoes
and name the plagues, dripping wine on our plates
in memory of Egyptian blood, remembering
the solemn price of our places

at a free table, remembering that we—
Rowleys, refugees from starving Connacht,
and Gaelic-speaking Connells, driven
from the Highlands by landowners

who never bothered to replace us
—were the tenth plague of the Cherokee
and the Haudenosaunee, fallen angels
who did not pass them by,

but named their doorposts “home”
in a blanched tongue, like the kibbutz boy
and the Arab who point at the same olive tree and,
with equal truth and conviction, cry

“That was my grandfather’s orchard!”
before coming to blows, as though
the alliteration of Cain and Cú Chulainn
were not coincidence, but the capstone

of the falling tower that gave both
Hebrew and Irish the same word for “knife.”

Reyzl Grace is a transfeminine Ashkenazi descendent of Irish emigrants from Connacht, as well as a writer, translator, publisher, and librarian. Her recent work has appeared in So to Speak, the gamut mag, Alchemy, and the anthology The Truth Is in the Stars from Fifth Wheel Press, and more can be found at her website,, or by following her on Twitter @reyzlgrace. She is often asked whether she feels a sense of "home" in connection with Ireland. She's still waiting for it to grant her a right of return to find out.

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