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The Cross of Women

Poetry, Catherine Cronin

In memory of Nan

There’s a version of you under Clery’s clock

where the path beneath your feet

runs off the paper edge into my indefinite lifeline.

Only in the city by prescription,

you probably blessed yourself at its limits.

This uncandid shadow is revealing.

Your thick auburn hair lightened

with the sepia sun, is shouldered

by a good coat that cloaks your breast pain

and shields you from the unfamiliar urban chill.

I prefer to picture you back home making crosses.

Not the one we’ve had to bear -

but an ancient one of stellar green,

root-bound at rivers, bent into shape

by pallid need and faithful care.

A gift for you from Brigid

to prevent a time for keening,

to heal with the feminine,

to protect without submission.

Easing the cross of women.

For you, the story of our broken genes

came too late. That hidden burden

carried to your young grave

as a warning of what would be

inherited through blood and gut.

The goddess. The granny. The saint.

Once held in more desperate palms.

Now, word of you passes on through word of mouth

and whispered prayers to save me and all your future girls.


Catherine Cronin is an Irish writer currently living in Zurich, Switzerland. After a breast cancer diagnosis in 2018, writing became essential for coping with her new way of living. Themes of femininity, home, mythology, and mortality feature in her work. Catherine has written plays for the Swiss and Irish stages and is now working on her first poetry collection.

Instagram: @catherinecronin_writer


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