I Washed And Cooked For Them

by John Flynn

They were dirty, those clothes,
The suds were boiling,
the pot big with colour.
Uniforms off, the boys stood
Shy and laughing. I was too.
Tittering they stood.
Nervous laughter
Combined with suds,
Fog and breath.
I was giddy,
The pot boiling.
I was thinking
‘Tom you`re gorgeous.’
Mammy came in.
‘Brigid, get out. Brigid.’
I thought,
The suds are boiling
The boys laughing.
I ran.
I ran and cried.
Mammy did it again,
Stopped me from,
From having a boyfriend.
The boys laughed.
The boys laughed.
The night cold,
Cold outside.
I stood outside.
I cried outside.
My back ached,
My head hurt.
‘Mammy, you …
‘Mammy you …’
‘Mammy,’ said Daddy
‘Will tan your hide.’
I spat.
I spat at her.
The boys dressed
in towels and sheets.
Off I ran.
The night cold,
Birds gone,
Birds quiet,
Birds invisible.
I couldn’t make out
Where I ran.
I found the ditch.
I tumbled in.
I fell in flat.
I fell low.
It was warm in the ditch.
It smelled of daisies,
It smelled of earth,
The bottom of the ditch
I lay in.
I stayed there
Till morning came alight,
Alive with bird noise,
Bird calls and wing flap.
I sat up. Up I sat.
I waited there.
My clothes were dirty,
My clothes were damp.
I shivered in them.
I shivered and shivered,
I shivered there.
I waited.
I waited there,
My stomach sore,
My bladder full.
I went behind a tree.
Mammy called,
‘Brigid, Brigid.’
I heard the truck.
I saw the truck come,
The Tans get out.
I saw them fire.
I heard the shots.
I saw, I heard.
I lay back down.
I survived.
I survived.

Reproduced with kind permission of the author. This poem was composed in Poetry as Commemoration workshops held at The Pearse Museum, Dublin, in October 2022. The workshops were led by writer Kevin McDermott.

Pension application form of Annie Coyne of Aughagower, Westport, Co. Mayo
Date: 30th May 1951
Collection: Military Service Pensions Collection
Ref: MSP34REF51978 Military Archives