Things Left Unsaid

by Attracta Fahy

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.