Reyzl Grace


Rabbi Shimon ben Gamliel says, ‘On three things the world stands: on judgment, on truth and on peace.’  –Pirkei Avot 1.18

Three slender things that best support the world: the slender stream of milk from the cow’s dug into the pail, the slender blade of green corn upon the ground, the slender thread over the hand of a skilled woman.  –The Triads of Ireland 75

Research shows arranging 

in threes makes things 

easier to remember. Hence

Hebrew’s three-letter roots. 

Still, I can’t stop 

confusing חלב and חרב, 

“milk” and “sword”—the slender 

difference between naming a land 

of sweetness and cutting it in two

to see to whom it belongs.

I was born in pieces,

bottle-fed and seeking honey

from the page. חרב, 

used as a verb, means both

“to fall to destruction” and 

“to dry up”. Irish 

bainne (milk), is from 

a root meaning “to drop”.

It’s hard to mix up with clíomh

(sword), pronounced like, 

but not related to,

cleave—a contranym, or “word 

that means the opposite of itself,” 

as in, “Solomon threatened 

to cleave the baby in half,

and the true mother, for love, 

did not cleave to her child.”

I remember the cows on my uncle’s

farm. Pitching hay 

was work that would make a man. 

Féar (grass). Fear

(man). One of them 

is a lie. I’m allergic to grass. 

As a child, I was marched 

through prairie, arrived at picnics 

with welt-covered legs. 

Itching was an excuse not to lift 

the cob, afraid of getting 

butter on my clothes. My father 

didn’t understand the fear 

of grass or butter, thought me 

prissy. Did he know 

the truth? When coined, prissy

was defined as “nothing but a girl’s 

word,” but, originally,

girl could have any body, 

welts or no. Now 

I walk through tall grass. 

I don’t talk to my father. 

The body doesn’t lie. 

It is marked by what is real.

My father isn’t Irish;

for him, it’s just דשא,

which looks like Aramaic, but isn’t.

The slender thread in a woman’s

hand is like wisdom; it makes 

whole what was asunder: 

the wall of the womb I came from, 

the halves of the baby I was, 

the body that broke out in welts 

when forced to walk a lie. 

Sick women and cattle 

got the caibe-sídh—a stone 

of peace (sídh), from the fae 

(sídh), who gave for a price.

Not for nothing is שילם

(to pay) the changeling of שלום

(peace). It costs to be whole—

מושלם. All from three:

a giving, a taking, a thing

exchanged. Each stands 

on another. The one who is not 

at peace—how will she judge? 

The hand that is not skilled—

how will it milk? This 

is what it means to live 

in two bodies, to read 

from two books—to confuse 

two words and become 

a third thing that wonders 

which thing is third.

Reyzl Grace is the Jewish descendent of 19th-century emigrants from Connacht. Her multilingual work reflects her roots in two diasporas, as well as her personal journey as a transgender woman. You can find her in the mastheads of Cordella Magazine and Psaltery & Lyre, at, and on Twitter @reyzlgrace.