“One of those women” – Fiction by Aoibheann McCann

Black Madonna of Częstochowa, Poland.
Black Madonna of Częstochowa, Poland.

Great gods almighty it’s been a brutal summer, hasn’t it, with all the rage and hatred and violence and warfare piling up in our newsfeeds?  It seems like every day’s been a fierce reminder that this mad world of ours could always use a little more mercy. With that in mind, we hope you enjoy Aoibheann McCann‘s “One of those women” from our Summer 2014 issue.

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I BROUGHT ON THE BLEEDING SEVEN TIMES OVER THE YEARS before it stopped altogether. Miriam down the road, then her daughter, would peer out from the darkness and give me what I needed.

I could have got my husband to leave me alone, but I knew he would blame my first lover. My husband was a quiet man. The other men avoided him, walked by him as he stood in the dust. The shame I had brought him and he had borne. Forever the man who had married a woman who bore her first lover’s bastard.

I am one of these women who from the beginning of time have known it was not time, not my time, not their time. I am one of the women who chose. I do not hide my face.

So my son was fed, and the others bled into the ground. I thought when he grew up and started to be a help to his father that I would not take the turn down the track for the bitter herbs. I would have a child I could kiss. My son never wanted to be kissed. He cried until I picked him up, then he would twist away and stare out, at what I could not see.

Who am I? Who are these women? Who are the six thousand from this country that leave to find an end to the not-bleeding? Year on year, multiplied by all the countries in the world. Who are these women who do not seem to know what is right? Who from the beginning of time have committed this evil. Continue this evil even as you march against them, stones in hand to throw at their glass houses and smash them.

It was my husband who would go to find him as he roamed, we’d only hear of the trouble afterwards. People whispered our renewed shame. I bore it as I had promised to when I first noticed the absence of bleeding, the morning lurch, the heightened sense of the smell of the junipers. Worrying long into the night, the thought repeating over and over; he is dead, he is dead. Then he was. It was a relief that there were no brothers and sisters to see his broken body.

I am the statue at the side of the road. I am the statue in your churches. My face appeared to you in France, in Portugal, in Mexico. In the West of Ireland where you pace righteously. I appear in the tree stumps and the cliff faces to remind you. I am not ashamed of what I chose. Let them choose.

You ask me to have mercy on you, you mouth it in your prayers; Hail Mary, Mother of God, have mercy on me. You pray to me in your cold churches, cut off from the world of heat, hunger and dust where I came from.

Have mercy on me, the woman who is now stone. Have mercy on those who are flesh and blood. They stand before you.

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8x10_High Res_DSC_0560AOIBHEANN McCANN lives on the West Coast of Ireland where she writes fiction, non-fiction, and the occasional poem. In real life she is the manager of a residential service for cancer patients. Her work has been published in THE EDGE, The Galway Advertiser, Xposed, The Galway Independent, The Galway Review, wordlegs, and Crannog. She has also been a featured writer at The Over the Edge Event and on Galway Culture Night 2013.

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