My Great Aunt Chrissie" is a poem I wrote about my Great Aunt who died in a mother and baby home during the 1950's. It discusses how Irish society treated these "fallen women" and likens it to the way we now as a country treat women who are left with no option but to seek abortions in the United Kingdom. This is how I wanted to stand out and scream in the name of the Repeal the 8th movement, to stand up for Irish women who have been oppressed by our government and our incriminating constitution and of course, for the memory of my great aunt Chrissie who deserved so much better in life than the cards she was dealt. Since I shared this video on Facebook in July, it has gained almost 11,000 views and some really cool shares from Stephen James Smith, Emmet Kirwan and Anna Cosgrave. It is has made me so proud of my art and has given me the confidence to keep writing.
My Great Aunt Chrissie
Aged 19 Years old
Was hidden away in a country house
To die in a mother and baby home.
I don't know much about her
No dates, no records, no paper trail
Only the teary eyed story
My grandmother's Alzheimer's tale.
She was young and she was dumb
And she had the nerve to fall in love.
And then her life fell apart
When she discovered another beating heart-
Growing inside. Family cast her aside.
Sent her to a place
Where she could have her spirit erased
To return another day.
But no. In the dark twilight. Out of sight,
Parish priest smuggled her through the night
Down backroads, by lake views
In his old VW-
Taking her to a so-called safe place;
An Teach Tearmainn-
Refuge for God's refused-
With rooms for those in subterfuge.
She sloshed her sin across great stone slabs,
In that stoic home for the women of Rome.
Scrubbing the floors till her hands did ache,
Raw red with blood, peeling shame away.
A piece of her would go and live on,
Through her one and only son.
Raised by another mother-Without her-
doubted her-Left her to wither and die-
Which is what she did.
Endlessly working those long corridors-
Watched by the crucified who hung on the walls-
Cold like the marble she cleaned-picture the scene-
The horror-washed up in laundry soap.
No one left to fight or hope.
Just haul the weak frame away, another time, another place.
Just another anonymous face.
We have a habit here in Éire
Of burying our mistakes.
Hiding our history behind high famine walls
So famed, so tall, never thinking about the fall.
Damning our women-
High morals, high crosses, high horses-
Governments hiding in confession boxes
With the fathers and sisters by their side.
And our children stolen by the state-
Dumped in septic tanks by so-called saints,
In convents that drowned the innocent convicts.
We can't just brush away 798.
And yes, the mother and baby homes might be gone
But with thirty years gone, we haven't moved on
Their harrowing ethos still sung strong
Pregnant women are someone else's problem.
Instead of VW's, it's planes-
Instead of high walls, it's airport security gates-
But what has stayed the same-is the dying shame.
Eight women a day, lives never the same.
And what did they die for? What do they die for?
Some voiceless patriarchy in the ether above?
Or for men in suits who don't listen to refutes
Of women dying in hospital rooms-using hangers as their tools.
Their escape weapons, their sacred hearts
Broken apart, with yells of murderer and whore
Ringing in their delicate ears
Repealing the Eighth to make it safer for those Eight a day.
My Dear Great Aunt Chrissie
I dream of the future you should have had-the life you deserved to live.
Not you turning in some unmarked grave
As the world falls to shit like it is.
Because you are my great aunt Chrissie,
And you would have been a great mother too,
Had society allowed you,
But I won't forget them forget about you.
And you have not died in vain-
Nor have those women and children who faced the same fate.
A nation must rise together once again-
Give voices to the voiceless-stand together with the eight.