It was where I learned to read,
and write, and count;
I counted the days.
It was where I realised carrying
a cello was harder than playing it.
It was where I engraved my name
on the playground wall,
beneath Rudolf Schwarz 1945,
and was caught and frogmarched
to the headmaster’s office,
and punished between puffs of pipe smoke.
It was where I gave my first poetry reading,
watched the space shuttle launch:
and where I passed, in order of priority,
my cycling proficiency test
and eleven plus.
It was where I learnt the words
of sectarian songs,
and how to hate fenians,
and the importance of adding
sugar to petrol bombs.
It was where we played football,
and pretended we were soldiers
always Montgomery and Rommel,
it was where I first kissed a girl.
It was also where the prisoners learnt
English, accountancy and shorthand,
where they formed a choir
accompanied by violin and cello,
and where Father Muller
celebrated mass each evening,
and Chaplin Richter
led Sunday worship,
(the Catholics being more
devout than the Protestants).
It was where Josef Haefele
practised dentistry without
“Radiotherapy and X-ray Technology”
by Zanker, despite having requested
the text on several occasions.
It was where the prisoners
passed money through the fence
to children, to bring them
fish and chips from Ritchie’s,
and where, on 7th March 1945,
Wilhelm Thone hung himself
in his room.
By December ’45
The prisoners had gone home.
I left in the summer of ’83.
I returned for the final time
fifteen years later,
to put a ballot in a box;
Orangefield Primary School was a POW hospital
from January 1945 to November 1945
This poem is part of the Poetry Book Black Eyed Peace