We Did What We Were Told  
     
 

We did what we were told.
We were happy, obedient.
We had come through much.
We knew our place.

Our children beaten,
Starved, raped,
In the homes
They lived in fear of;
by Mothers,
By the Brothers.

But we did what we were told.
We were obedient, clean.
Slow to thoughts of vengeance,
Uneasy saying anything.

In that house next door,
The child was beaten daily.
We saw him -- little tyke --
On his way to the school.
A bruise shaped like Ireland
On his eight-year-old face.
The reasons weren't clear.
Didn't like to interfere.

So we did what we were told.
Submissive, compliant,
And so many of us
Had been abused in our time.
So really we were frightened
There might be something to say.
So we did what we were told
And looked the other way.

And life was holy then.
In the sanctity of the slum.
Just a clip on the ear.
A punishment beating.
Oh, you'd leave your door open
In the good old days,
Of Irish laws,
And Irish ways.
Before new-fangled talk
Of rights, and victims.
Authority's anointed.
And we looked where they pointed.

Never did us any harm.
Way it was in those days.
No.
It never did us
Any harm at all.
But now we find it frightening.
Yes.
Because
I know -- we know --
Who that tortured child was.

I heard nothing. Nothing.
Just the leaves as they fell
On a still Irish silence
And the Angelus bell.
Spiritual.
Lovely.
Secret.
Old.
And they hid in the open.
We did what we were told.

 

 

 
 
   
 
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