“Nun “As Gaeilge”


A poem about learning the Irish Language, this is written in English with some Irish words as I remember them.


Nun “As Gaeilge”

Repeat said the Nun, An bhfuil cead agam

again she spat, with venom in the air,

forty little voices afraid, struck numb,

the beauty of the mother tongue sang with despair,


Mother of God she wailed towards the light,

are yis Irish at all, do you hear what I say,

the knot in my stomach both hunger and fright,

a language of beauty a torment every day,


word after word, rhyme upon rhyme,

liom, leat, leis, leithi, linn, libh and leo,

monotonous and rhythmic time after time,

praying it was right so she’d let us go,


I’m 40 years older, well to a year or so,

and my Irish is still in that class,

the nun for all her guster and bustle and go,

was talking our Irish right out of her ass.


Adrian McKenna is a frontline child care professional; he has worked for many years with young people and adults in residential care, detention services, mental health services and post-adoption services. He currently works with a large Dublin-based charity. He is a Member of The Irish Association of Social Care Workers, Social Justice Ireland and the YES Campaign for Children.

All views expressed are entirely my own unless otherwise stated and are not representative of any organisation or employer past , present or future.


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