We learned most of history in school
by heart, dates, places, names, important
events like the 1916 Rising, Cromwell, 1798.
We rolled out in rhyme from our tongues
names of every patriot, believed in the sixties
everything happened in Dublin, or Cork.
Lessons learned at home. One could receive
an A in homework, and be none the wiser
that you hadn’t a clue of what really went on.
Two fields down from our village school
overgrown with bushel, a ruin of a large house
we thought was haunted. One day a pupil
announced in class, it was an old barracks,
the teacher silent, moved to another subject,
sometimes there isn’t an answer, and often
things are best left unsaid. That’s how it was,
truths gleaned over to avoid the pain, some even
left out, and we didn’t know anything different.
History loomed in our house, an inimical shadow
between granduncles, smirks like gritting teeth,
mouthfuls of stubbornness over newspapers,
what we could read. My father a go-between,
my aunt quietly knitting, her Aran socks saying
more than she ever did. Years later rumours half
came to light, the ruin– an RIC Barracks,
during the war of Independence, set on fire.
Women in our family dispatching messages.
In the shadow of the civil war we witness
the dire brutality of humanity, our family
split, a gruff tone, bitterness between brothers.