PICTURES AT AN EXHIBITION by Patrick Joseph Dorrian


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.


3 Responses to PICTURES AT AN EXHIBITION by Patrick Joseph Dorrian

  1. Norma Wilson March 25, 2014 at 10:49 am #

    I came from those streets, only I am a Protestant. We also had nothing and I mean nothing. No toilet inside, no hot water, no central heating. But I would not change it for all the world. I played on the streets and was glad of a big heel of white chief bread with jam on it!
    My Mother bathe us all in a tin bath, the washing machine was put on to boil, and then pumped into it! Two single shillings to get the heat from the gas oven. Oh I know to some then we were living in luxury? But I had a magical childhood playing up minnow burn or the Lagan.
    Which three years ago my brother returned to the minnow burn and hung himself.

    • Jude Collins March 25, 2014 at 12:04 pm #

      Norma – I think PJD has done a splendid job in linking the past with the present. I’m glad it has re-awakened happy echoes for you – and truly saddened at the family tragedy you describe. How unbearable. You have my sincere condolences.

  2. paddykool March 25, 2014 at 12:45 pm #

    I enjoyed this PJD….. and Norma,
    I’ve been in that same place of your loss.It’s a universal truth that the past is a foreign country to those living now.. should they be catholic, protestant or of no creed at all