© Tom McIlveen

Winner, 2016 Nandewar Poetry Competition, Narrabri NSW.

“Oh Father I’ve come with my sins to confession, confused and in need of respite…
for Father I’m haunted by some sort of demon who prowls through the dorm every night.”

“So tell me my child of this ‘dorm’ that you speak… is it here behind orphanage walls
or further afield in another abode, at St Patrick’s or maybe St Paul’s?“

“I speak of the dorm in the building above the communal activity yard,
where all of the doors have been fitted with bolts and the windows are covered and barred.
I sleep in a room with the Primary kids who will vouch that my story is true…
for they have been woken at night by the demon and taunted and terrorised too!”

“So tell me my child of this ‘demon’ you speak…does it truly appear in the dorm…
or could it be just an illusion of yours, without substance or physical form?
I know that you’re feeling emotional now, but illusions are not what they seem!
Perhaps it has all been imaginary and just part of a terrible dream?”

“Remember you told us that demons are often deceitfully clever and wise?
You said they can easily influence souls and are skilled in the art of disguise!
If I have been dreaming, then maybe my dreams have been haunted by demons as well...
and maybe the demon from yesterday’s sermon has conjured a magical spell?”

“Then why have the others not spoken to me of this ‘demon’ that you have disguised ...
and why hasn’t resident Father O’Brien or our Brother Gerard been advised?”
“I’m frightened of bothering Brother Gerard...and especially when he’s on call.
He blames us for causing disturbance at night and he flogs us for nothing at all!”

“Oh don’t be so utterly ludicrous child! You are clearly confused and distressed.
Our Brother Gerard is a man of the cloth who’s been formally chosen and blessed!
You should be discussing this matter with him – as the Brother in charge of your ward;
for he is the one who will conquer your demon and teach you to trust in the Lord!”

“I trust in the Lord but not Brother Gerard, who resembles the demon I see...
for he is the one who awakes me at night and is constantly bothering me!”

“What bothers you it something he’s done or just something he’s threatened or tried?
Perhaps it was something you’ve seen or you’ve heard, or just something he may have implied?”

“He touches us Father... in ways that he shouldn’t and says it is misunderstood.
He says it’s considered permissible here and is natural, pleasing and good.
I know it is wrong, but I daren’t complain as I’m frightened of what he will do.
He bashes us Father and says he will send us away when enrolments are due.”

“I think you are overreacting my child, you are being ridiculous now!
Our Brother Gerard is a shepherd of God who has taken a virtuous vow.
For penance I want you to pray and forgive, then forget what you’ve seen and you’ve heard...
as voices and images often distort, when our senses are drowsy and blurred.“

“If he is the shepherd, then why does he come to the dorm at eleven o’clock
and waken the lambs that have fallen asleep to entice them away from his flock?
You tell me that I should ignore what I’ve seen, to be free of all shame and regret...
but Father I know ...for as long as I live – I will never forgive or forget!”

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