A poem for the day – A Protestant School

This one appears – in my second collection, Rasputin and his Children – introduced by an epigraph quoting from a standard equal opportunities monitoring form, gathering info for what they call ‘the residual method’ of determining an a person’s religion. The question is ‘Did you attend primary/preparatory school in Northern Ireland? If so, please give the name… etc.’

A Protestant School

My mother lies to get me into school.
‘What shall we put him down as?”Presbyterian.’
We’re kept in when it rains. The downpour
sizzles on the big hall’s churchy windows.
We slide in sock-soles across the parquet.
P7’s hard men plot deliberate failure;
in music & Movement, P1s and 2s
pretend to be trees. ‘How high and far can
Bruce Lee really leap? What really killed him?
Who is your favourite Bay City Roller?’
Each year, to please the skeletal headmaster
who hovers in his secretary’s doorway
(at his back the Coronation portrait)
a conscript choir sings Dona Nobis Pacem.


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