If you're looking for something on the topography of sidelines this could be the place to start a building of impossible antiquity constructed, or so the theory goes, from shards of the shattered tablets that a disillusioned Moses threw down the mountain while taking aim and missing a whole herd of golden calves. Come through the gates and you may kiss the mezuzah or genuflect or slip your shoes off or do whatever else you need to do to feel safe in the knowledge that you don't belong here and that, once in, they'll let you out again. Watch your step as you skirt round the hidden corners where old enemies meet for coffee and those of us once kept apart by some Bronze Age diktat of forbidden fruits finally come together behind the bike sheds for a surreptitious kiss that could last forever if it doesn't blow the universe to bits before next Tuesday. Please also mind your footing in the draughty corridors so as not to trip over the recent influx of rough sleepers who have turned, inexplicably, to stone. Now make your way to the library stocked with books in lost languages bearing incorrect shelf-marks and browse scrolls so old their ink has faded leaving nothing but the ends of lines where scribes once paused to ease their cramping fingers. Look hard enough and you might see these formerly blank spaces filling in with undelivered messages from the uncomfortable invisible ignored. On your way out resist the postcards in the gift shop and the calendars so out-of-date they mark the cycles of a different sun. And finally, when looking for the exit try to avoid the one that leads to the debatable lands between this world and the next where all comers queue to show their passports hoping their documents have not expired.
My half-Irish-Catholic half-Orange-Protestant entirely atheistical Glaswegian beloved is deeply allergic to strawberries, cinnamon, and all forms of theological doctrine. She never puts her foot into a church except for weddings, funerals, early music, and her weekly class in Scottish Country Dancing. My half-Irish-Catholic half-Orange-Protestant entirely atheistical Glaswegian beloved would not let a Hail Mary pass her lips but is word-perfect in the Yiddish formulae for deflecting Ayn-Hore, the Evil Eye and knows, far better than I do, where to find the candles for my parents' Yahrzeits. My half-Irish-Catholic half-Orange-Protestant entirely atheistical Glaswegian beloved is always up for a good domestic spat over the best route to Scottish independence or whose turn it is to clean the bathroom sink, and then it's Talmudists versus Jesuits dancing on heads of pins and splitting hairs at forty paces and Heaven only knows which team will win.
My grandmothers' grandmothers waving from the dock from station platform or a market square watching everyone go out of sight lost to sea-fog, coal smoke, bends in roads. Letters follow news of births and deaths scored out by censors or delayed by war changes of address that never come from senders unaware where they'll go next. Yet those who can will finally reunite in tattered photos whispering in my drawer some older than the century gone by some with names and faces I don't know but I won't be the one to let them go.
Although born in New Jersey, Ellen Galford has spent most of her life in Scotland. She has published four novels: Moll Cutpurse: Her True History (Firebrand Books, 1985), The Fires of Bride (Firebrand Books, 1988), Queendom Come (Virago Books, 1990), and The Dyke and the Dybbuk (Seal Press, 1994)--the last of which was the recipient of a Lambda Award for Gay and Lesbian Literature from the American Publishers Association. Galford has also contributed to anthologies on Jewish and LGBTQ themes. She is currently learning Yiddish, and some of her early experiments with Yiddish poetry have appeared in the US-based journal Afn Shvel. She has also collaborated with composer Phil Alexander to create Among Others: 200 Years of Jewish Lives in Edinburgh, a performance piece marking the bicentenary of Scotland's oldest Jewish community.
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|Date:||Dec 22, 2019|
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