Pictures at an exhibition (apologies to Mussorgsky)
The building is a Carnegie Gift relic,
a cherished community facility,
the Falls Road Library shows not only books
but art and other local history.
So that’s where I found myself,
on a wet afternoon wandering in,
in wet foot steps, trailing to the notice boards,
showing pictures in an exhibition.
Library quiet can be busy
but the quiet here was church like,
there was a kind of reverence
from the people there, looking, peering
into the past, where their youth laid bare,
exposed in black and white; rows of poses,
neighbours, smiling in their poverty.
Children, first communicants, scrubbed clean;
teenage girls, seeking control through paint
and hemline elevation; potential etched on very face.
Then there was the troubles, a riot captured;
smoke from burning; houses, factories and vehicles.
This was my youth here, hung like washing;
embarrassing in its simplicity; to be judged now,
judged by modern standards, judged by those
with central heating and indoor flush and equality measures.
Judged by those who didn’t suffer then,
convicted of state abuse as an afterthought,
missing the pile of the consumed piled against
the doors of those who would rule us now.
My eyes watered looking at the pictures,
how kids enjoyed guiders* and sliding on ice
not knowing we lived in a Cold House,
not knowing our lean was because of poverty.
I left the room, unable to forget the pictures,
unable to forget the exhibition, unable to forget;
but I remembered my parents ambition for us,
the fight for education and I cried in thanks to them.