She asked me to contribute a pound to a collection for a hotel telephonist who was going to Liverpool for an abortion. “Welcome
back, Annie, to Dublin, Sin City.”
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At the Rotunda, Sister Eileen said, “Annie, what’s that Bishop been doing to you? On the phone you sounded desperate.”
I mentioned the awful prayers he made me say.
From her desk, she took a prayer book and handed it to me. Nothing about sin in it. It had pictures of trees and flowers and
sunsets; it was full of light and hope, gratitude and spiritual magic.
She told me about the host family. They lived in Clontarf by the sea. Denis Devlin, a Catholic, was in publishing; his wife,
Barbara, a Presbyterian from the north, was a vicar’s daughter. They had one baby. How clever Sister Eileen was and maybe
too brave for her own good. She was lodging me with a lady who would not be overawed by the fact that Eamonn was a bishop.
Since I had registered as a Catholic, I was advised to see the chaplain in his office, a few blocks away on Marlboro Street
near the Pro-Cathedral.
Young, tall, emaciated, Father Alan Coughlin had bulging, watery eyes.
“Sit. I was expecting you.” He had a rough voice. “You have an address at Inch, County Kerry. You are related in some way
to Bishop Casey?”
“In some way.”
“I am no great admirer of his.”
I said nothing, but we had summed each other up.
In Ireland, he went on to say, unmarried mothers give their babies up for adoption. Having an illegitimate baby is irresponsible,
a mortal sin, and so on.
“Questions, Miss Murphy?”
“Yes. Who the hell do you think you are?”
His face crumpled. “The Bishop’s representative.”
I stood up and made for the door, but he barred my way.
“If you don’t get out of my way this second…,” I said.
This judge-and-jury of a man turned his head aside in contempt at so harmless a threat.
“I’ll scream,” I continued, “then tell the cops you tried to rape me.”
He shifted as if the Pope had spoken. “I only wanted to help, Miss Murphy.”
Outside, I called Sister Eileen. “Did you forewarn that jamjar shark I was coming?”
She laughed. “No, Annie.”
“I didn’t think it was you. Do I have to see him again?”
“Not if you don’t want to.”
“Good,” I said. “And thanks for everything.”
The Devlins’ house was big and full of light. Nicholas, the nine-month-old baby, was beautiful.
I was feeling free for the first time in weeks when Barbara Devlin, a tall, dark lady aged about thirty, said, “A man keeps
ringing you, Annie.”
The phone buzzed at that minute. She answered it and handed the receiver to me. “Hello, Bishop,” I said.
The ringing had awakened the baby.
“Annie, I thought you left Inch to escape the sight and sound of babies.”
“I have to earn my keep.”
“I called up that sister at the Rotunda. She talked to me as if I was just anybody.”
“How are you getting on with the prayers?”
“A great solace,” I said.
Minutes after that call, Sister Eileen phoned. “Annie, the Bishop thinks you’re giving up the baby.”
“I tell him what he wants to hear. I gather you didn’t.”
She giggled. “He and I differ on a basic question.”
“He likes people on wheels so he can push them around.”
“Sister,” I said again, “are you sure you’re a Catholic?”
Nicholas did not take to me and cried whenever I went near him. I told Barbara I would do anything to help in the house but
I was afraid her baby might not be good for mine.
“Also,” I said, “Denis dotes on him and my baby will never know his father.”
She gripped my arm kindly. “Say no more, Annie.”
I began to wonder if Eamonn, Father Coughlin, and my sister Mary, who still called me urging adoption, were right, after all.
How could I give my son the life he was entitled to? With only £180 left of my savings, I had few choices.
When Eamonn called next, I had primed Barbara to say I was out walking the baby. This was the first time I had rejected him.
Weeks passed. On alternate Wednesdays, Bridget and I went for an examination at the Rotunda and then we saw a movie and stayed
at her flat for the night. We pulled up our dresses to compare the bulges. She was convinced her baby would have head and
feet and nothing in between, like a tadpole, while mine would be born over six feet tall like my father.
Eamonn was calling so persistently now I finally had to speak with him. My stomach immediately tightened and my baby resented
that. I was eating a peach at the time.
He said, “Did you say something, Annie?”
“Just telling my baby this is the best peach I ever ate.”
. And don’t keep talking about ‘my baby.’ “ “My” baby made it too human, I guess, less easy to dispose of. He doubtless preferred
I agreed to meet him the following Wednesday at Jury’s for dinner.
I donned a nice navy maternity dress. I put my hair up and wore big earrings and my face was a rosy pink. I was proud of my
big belly over which I spread my hands as I walked into the hotel lobby to greet him. This was
magic bubble within the magic bubble of Ireland.
He was seated in the lobby, and when he saw me he leaped to his feet and, kissing my cheek, whispered, “My God, ‘tis truly
pregnant you are. Is it twins or more?”
His problems seemed to be multiplying before his eyes.
“Shall we sit for a minute, Annie?”
“There is for me,” and he collapsed back into his seat and called for a brandy while I settled myself in more slowly.
“I never saw a pregnant woman look so radiant.”
When he heard at dinner that I was staying with a Protestant lady, he dropped his fork on his plate and broke it.
After a waitress replaced the plate: “Is it a mixed marriage?” I nodded. “ ’Tis a hard road, then, they have to travel.”
I felt acid rise in my throat. If he found marriage between Christians unacceptable, no wonder he did not want me, a single
girl, to keep my baby.
“As soon as I’ve had my baby I’m leaving here.”
He was not sure what I meant but he had his suspicions. “No, Annie.” Reenter Eamonn, the dream-maker. “As soon as you’ve given
the baby up, we’ll go somewhere nice, a Greek island, perhaps, or the Canaries.”
Seeing my clumsy figure and him in his clericals, I knew dream-time was over. I really did sympathize with his point of view.
He had seen my wildness. He thought that the very thing that made me a good lover would make me a bad mother.
Yet, while he expected other women married to drunks, brutes, adulterers to cope with half-a-dozen kids, he saw me as utterly
helpless. Had I not even rejected his religion? He had sinned in siring a child but he could atone if the child were given
to God through adoption into a Catholic family.
Back to the terrible doctrine of atonement. There was no such thing as forgiveness without strings. Always someone had to
be victimized—in this case, me and Thumper.
But I did not accept the Irish idea that a single woman was unable to bring up her child. This was a Catholic code for: An
unwed woman is not fit to bring one up.
A week before, I read in the paper that a young pregnant Catholic in Northern Ireland was widowed in the Troubles. I bet no
priests and nuns were pressuring her to give up her baby as soon as it was born on the plea that a single parent was unable
or unfit to bring up a baby.
No, it wasn’t a single parent that worried the Irish but a
single parent. It was her sin, not her singleness, that disabled her from parenthood. Nor could I imagine priests saying
to that widowed woman in the north, “Ah, what a pity you are pregnant.” For the child was the most precious thing her husband
I was like that widow. I never saw my having a child as a tragedy; I wanted Eamonn’s child and often told him so. If he had
not wanted to risk it, he should not have slept with me or he should have taken precautions, which he did not.
What angered me most was the arrogant assumption of men like Eamonn that they and only they knew what God wanted.
“Say a special prayer for me,” I whispered.
Was this the long-awaited spark of repentance? Eagerly: “I will, pet, but for what?”
“Ask God that when I am in labor and suffering badly —”
“Yes, yes?” he said, with pity.
“I do not shout out your name.”
His mouth opened like a roller blind. “You
“Not if you pray really hard,” I said.
In the parking lot he took my face in his hands and kissed me, and in the car he kept fondling my breasts. Near to Bridget’s
place, he drew up and, after giving me thirty pounds for expenses, he hugged and kissed me. “Think over what I said,” he pleaded.
I waved him off, but instead of going at once to Bridget’s I walked east along Northumberland Road, past Jury’s Hotel and
the American embassy. I did not know where I was going or why. But through the gasoline fumes I could smell the sea.
Within a half hour, beyond a level crossing, I saw the sign
; I was on the edge of Dublin Harbor. There was no moon or stars, so that buildings, even the two tall chimneys of the power
station, seemed to be breaking up in the grainy night. To the northeast, the purply outline of the long low peninsula of Howth
looked like a beached whale. To my right were the illuminated streets and houses of Dun Laoghaire. Lights twinkled on boats
in the bay.
I stepped off the sidewalk onto stony sand and removed my shoes. The tide was in; it swished and shuffled a few feet away.
The water came up to my knees, then to my waist, its saltiness tickling my nose. In spite of my buoyancy, it was hard to keep
from sliding under. Now I knew why I had followed the sea’s scent. I wanted to die.
Strange Fruit Poem Pdf
But why when I was happy? So simple the answer and so hard to explain.
I was happy. Happiness here lasts as long as you can hold a smile. It is a field poppy picked in the midday heat.
The sea was no enemy, but a friend. It was where all life came from. I waded farther in. Until, from shoreward, through a
summer’s open window, there came to my ears the penetrating sound of a baby crying. Was it real or imaginary? I will never
know. But that pitiful wail made me see that I was doing a terrible wrong. In killing myself, in perpetuating my happiness,
I was aborting my baby, I was ruining the handiwork of the mothering God of love.
Something hit me that I was not aware of till then. My father often complained of a phantom pain in his severed leg. I, too,
had a phantom pain inside my body. It was the absence-pain of the child I had lost, whom I never thought of as mine. Now a
new child was giving me a second chance.
That baby’s cry in the night brought me to my senses. My baby—yes, whatever Eamonn said, it was
baby—was now filling my body and would soon, soon, fill my life.
I turned around and pushed myself through the sighing water toward the streetlights by the shore.
Bridget saw my condition but said no word. We women know. She helped me get changed. She made me a sherry trifle, which I
gobbled up before sinking into a deep sleep.
Next morning, I gave Bridget half the money Eamonn had given me and we went to Grafton Street to buy shawls and baby clothes.
She bought pink and I bought blue. These small purchases were for me a mighty rebellion. My child was a real person. See,
his hands go through here, his feet through here.
When Mrs. Devlin saw the baby clothes, she was excited. She called Sister Eileen and Sister called to remind me that my baby
was due within three weeks and did I still intend to keep it.
“Yes,” I said. “I’m keeping it.”
Bridget advised me to write Eamonn a letter and send it to him just before the baby was born. “For your own sake, Annie, you
have to be more honest with him.”
It was true. Eamonn could not believe that I would obey my conscience rather than a bishop. He did not realize that I loved
him in spite of what he was. He took it for granted that I would sacrifice my honor, as well as my future, for him. What else
are women for?
In my letter, I told him that I had not been wholly truthful. I had had to fight many things since I was eight years old:
my mother’s alcoholism, the vengeful God of Catholicism, disappointments in my love for men. Now twenty-six, I felt this baby
was a gift from God.
I told Eamonn I sympathized with him in his position but I had to think of my life and make my own decisions. I thanked him
for his help without which I could not have reached this degree of maturity. The fact was, I could not give up my baby for
him or for anyone. My God of love had guided me so far and would surely guide me in the years ahead. I ended with: “I love
you with all my heart and I probably always will. It’s a shame you can’t see this baby as part of your life everlasting.”
Bridget had her baby on July 15. I saw it in the nursery before I went to the ward: a perfect baby girl weighing six pounds
nine ounces. In spite of my terrible back pains, I ran crying to the ward.
“What are you doing, Murphy?” Bridget roared. “I have just been through the most ghastly ordeal—ripped apart I was from
belly button to arse, and now you wake me up.” She smiled. “Catherine’s seven heads and six legs are so beautiful, eh?”
I nodded. “Nice name, Catherine.”
But I was thinking, Jesus, Randall expected a monster and the baby’s exquisite. I’ve been expecting a normal baby and now,
thanks to God’s joke and judgment on me, I’m the one who’s going to have a baby with seven heads and six legs.
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“Listen, Murphy, if that bishop tells you to give up your beautiful baby, tell him to go to fucking hell.”
Did I promise.
“Be a darling,” she said, “and give Wentworth a message from me. You will? Tell the beast to stay away or I’ll kill him.”
- Hardcover: 396 pages
- Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell; 2 edition (January 24, 2005)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1405122862
- ISBN-13: 978-1405122863
- Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.1 x 9.4 inches