My grandfather snapped

fish spines off the coast of

Tel Aviv. Slick carcasses

slipping through his coltish


grip as though they were still alive

and thrumming, kicking in the Adriatic.

Latent instincts for survival sparking through

the only dormant muscles in the desert.


Stripped to his tawny chest he would wade

knee-deep in the algae & water pooling

under the orange groves, catch the rainfall


of citrus in skyward arms.

His soles thickened to leather from

skittering across the baking streets,

parched & shriveled like denied lips.


In the gravel he gathered you,

palms coarse, desiccated, groping

for your final strains. You escape

in relieved exhalations, lifting from

the earth at intervals wider than




Saba tugged Shoshana’s umber

plait, twined it around his enchanter’s

finger. They were twelve when they met—

she, staggering in from Jerusalem, caked

in Masada’s dust. Eighteen when they


holstered guns & swallowed smoke.


I do not know this place, embedded

as it is with the bodies of my ancestors

& their enemies, dyed in blood hot,

livid from the midst of battle. I scrawled


my prayers once on notepad paper

& twisted it within the crevices of the

Wailing Wall but can’t remember its contents

or whether it rests there still, atrophying.


I do not know this place, though I

am derived from its crumbling dirt


as my classmates do not know my

name was snatched from a city

on the West Bank, not from Plath poems

& air spirits, though sometimes I wish

that were the case.


I will not tell them.


Mother caresses my chin to tell me

I am my name—Ariel, the Lion.


Yet my grandparents’ steps

still thump in my ears, the bombs

will always shudder and rattle

my white-washed bones. I dart

back into my burrow, and I know


their smoke lingers.


by Ariella Carmell

Ariella Carmell is a senior at Marlborough School in California, where she is Editor-in-Chief of the literary magazine and Head Copy Editor of the newspaper. A Foyle Commended Poet of the Year and a recipient of Scholastic Art & Writing Awards, she has work published or forthcoming in Cadaverine, Crack the Spine, Vademecum, Crashtest, Eunoia Review, and Canvas Literary Journal, among others. She also blogs for The Adroit Journal about the intersection of film and literature. Come next fall, she will attend the University of Chicago.

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