My grandmother used to tell me stories

of her mother’s people, the Nortons

from Mayo – who moved to Scotland,

Wisconsin, anywhere. You know the Irish,

she said – too poor to stay at home.


No, I didn’t know the Irish,

not even when I went to Dublin,

Galway, Cork – years later, searching

for that trace of recognition

I was so sure would come to me.


You know the Irish, my grandmother said –

we had royalty back there, Lady Jane

Dempsey I think it was, who eloped with

her footman – which doesn’t surprise me.

There was a lord, too, though that name’s lost.


Everyone from Ireland has royalty somewhere,

she said. And each time I heard them,

those old stories changed again.

I asked my father at her funeral.

She talked to you, not me, he said.


Now he’s gone, and when my children

ask sometimes, I trace those old tales again,

a little more unsure each journey through.

You know the Irish. It’s what we have.

It’s all we have. I’ve come to say it too.


–Mark Vinz