Poetry: "Tongue (The Pale)" by Eddie Malone


T/W: physical violence






She flamed down from Dublin

On the Friday

And taught us the elocution

Of Dis Dat Dese and Doze.

She led us in her massacre of a coat and white wool stockings

Towards

This That These and Those.


Stand up she roared.

Inflate those baby pink lungs!

Correct diction would be important in our future lives.

These little digraphs contained potential success

Or rejection if the

Tip of our tongue touched not our teeth.

Kissing them would open up an entirely different life,

Miss Fitzgerald warned.

We looked at each other uneasily. Silence seemed our only option.

Within hearing distance glowering nuns policed her parole; thin lipped and thick ankled.

She took no prisoners.

She demolished a Colleen

in the top class who dared to sneer

At her exercises.

Reduced to tears

Crimson with rage and swollen with shame,

The girl’s lips mouthed the words of correction.

Together with one voice, we mutate

Finnegan’s Wake. She went home, fuming.

After that performance she descended on us no more.

Your one. Parents had grumbled.

A new Hibernia was rising with a

Mellifluous tone that ignored her rules.


The stage whispers about Murder in the Cathedral would end. Dead English saints were struck

dumb.


But

I will never unhear the burbling bleats of Mother Immaculata

That afternoon.

They banjaxed our Maths class and we jumped up.

As young as we were, we knew

the difference between a

Headmistress’ bellow

And a clotty gurgle of fear.

Out of her office she staggered.

Veil askance

One hand frantic to correct it,

The other, gore drenched with a meaty piece.

Sure that’s a dead baby!

Hissed Patricia to me.

Nope

Said Ciaran from Donadea Farm;

Tongue.






Bio: Eddie Malone (he/him) lives far, far out in the boggy countryside with his rescue dogs and his demons. About "Tongue (The Pale)": I was born in Manchester into an Irish family and then returned to Co. Kildare Ireland to grow up. I was an English kid in an Irish convent school in the 1970s. I was Instantly recognisable by my accent. The Irish accent was not seen then as the charming register it is now but in England was associated with terrorism and the IRA. As almost all young Irish people had to emigrate to England to seek employment, this was a problem. So the nuns at my school hired an elocution teacher to ‘correct’ their pupils' accents. This poem is about identity and language.




Image credits: "How many nuns does it take to change a light bulb?" by kevin dooley

https://wordpress.org/openverse/image/5cca343d-1b85-43b3-92a4-a6ac89812ee1