Doors And Corridors’ Part One - Poem by Mai Venn
My memories are full of the doors and corridors of my life,
Kids wondered why I had no kin other than a grandmother.
Being fatherless, followed by the shame of it, plus unwanted by a mother,
The first corridor is of early childhood, living in an Irish Catholic cocoon.
Hush! Don’t say a word! Keep her quiet! Don’t go there!
Black dressed nun, with pale cross features, staring … judging,
White collared clergy men giving advice on morality and so forth,
Behind closed doors, what really was the Church’s dark secret?
First door, door number 14, ‘safe for a while’ door.
Second door, the green door of St Joseph’s School …
My unhappy days were spent in corridors and behind doors there!
Each door had a different story; each story would mark me for life.
The endless corridors with numbered doors are still embedded in my mind.
Some nuns were kind while others were nothing more than monsters in black!
While their dress reminded me of penguins, waddling here and there,
Rosary beads trailing the ground making that unforgettable sound,
Down the stairs and along every corridor, those beads echoed across the concrete building.
Canes and flung dusters were the weapons to torture the child to giving in,
It was the ‘mug and jug’ teachings of the Sisters of Mercy regime,
Slap the child for not learning in the way they wanted you to learn.
Ignorant to their disabilities, they regarded children as dunces,
When most just needed support to be the little geniuses they were in their own right.
Left in the hands of women who were regarded as Brides of Christ,
Beaten before their young minds could become free thinking,
Labelled and damaged forever because they did not or could not submit.
The corridors of punishment with the statue of the Blessed Virgin,
Every first Friday of each month we marched down the long passage
To the main hallway beside the big glass doors, next to the cloakrooms,
Gathering each class from door to door, marching in single line to the school assembly.
Prayers were recited and hymns were sung before punishments would begin,
The school’s head nun would carry out the caning on the children.
It was such humiliation in front of all the classes, leaving a bitter mark on your pride.
Penalized for not being cleverer; for not being able to spell or for some small misdemeanour that a teaching nun had reported.
By fifth class they had decided that I was not worth the bother, so they told my guardians to make other arrangements.
Freedom is a beautiful word, freedom from the holy oppressors is like a bird taken its first flight, soaring into the great unknown.
Corridors and doors from that hell hole, banished to my distant past, are awoken like a bad dream.
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