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Three Irish Mothers of the 1950s
By Amy Egan
Sometimes I think about the moment
my grandmother, married late and unexpectant,
told Grandad, grower of trees but indifferent to fruit,
(he’d upped, then rooted deep for love, content to shelter
in the beauty of the leaf)
that she was pregnant.
The flowering of Joy.
All petals now long decayed –
lost like countless soul-sewn prayers.
The ones my grandmother mouthed
from morning to moth-hour of her day,
in devotion and plea to Mother Church.
How she loved the incense and the hassock,
wore scapulars next to her heart,
gripped wooden beads so tight between fingerprints
they became lustrous pearls of all her patterned hope.
All was sacred and wonderful.
And she was blessed.
But it must have been, on that same day ,
another woman, wedded early to bad luck,
was told what incensed Mother Church expected:
an icy inferno –
a stuffy laundry to sweat and wash away the stains,
and memory of a suckling cry.
Nothing to hold but dun despair.
No cushion for her knees –
All was profane and terrible.
And she was damned.
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