There’s no memory in me
of Brighton Square, the half-house flat
my parents shared before the split

then just a shadow, time trapped like a camera flash
of the garage me and mum stayed in
during transit, more a granny flat she says,
which her schoolfriend kindly lent us.

A stay in my granny’s
before Brabazon Square, the cold corner of a terrace
with too many doors and the ghost
only I saw.

29 Little Mary Street, over an army surplus shop
beside Slattery’s, and I can still see the silhouette of a rat
that sat in the bedroom door regularly, and being told to leave
when I was seen on the stairs—this was meant to be ‘a student house’
meaning: no kids.

Back to granny’s—then out again.
1 Ebeneezer Terrace, a corner house near The Coombe
and in that winter of ’82 the snow flowed up to the sky
but I’d started school now, two bus rides away
—the first ever Educate Together—
so we had to move

to a different world,
the salubrious seaside, 71 Albert Road;
we shared the house with one other man, had a back garden
with grass like a forest canopy
but they were selling.

Staying by the sea, 12 Breffni Terrace,
the first in a run of basement flats,
a four-storey redbrick beauty of a house
but servants’ quarters are gloomy
and the thumping of the landlord’s family feet
across our ceiling was a torment
to me, always wanting to be up there
with them, playing, which I often was, until

the day of the smashed plates and tears
and then of course we got the four-weeks notice
and they got divorced.

Some winter months in my stepdad’s family home
while they were away

then a few doors down, another basement,
20A Summerhill Road, where the daughters above
loved knocking on our door
if it was only me there, and running off laughing
or else forcing their way in
to stare and sneer at my crappy room,
and I was terrified of them because—as they made clear—
this was their house.

Further up the same road, 3A,
steep steps down, not a lot of light and when
they were suddenly selling
the auctioneer pushed his way past me into the flat
though I was alone and just thirteen.

Out to the sticks then, 32 Bayview Lawns,
a corner house on a strangely suburban estate, and we had it
for two whole years of my teens,
the walk to and from the Dart to school was a mile
along a harsh stony beach, perfect for smoking and self-absorption—
we chose to leave.

4 Longford Terrace, nice flat with a view of the sea
but the landlord had a daughter
who needed a place more than we did.

Out of home,
27 Lower Drumcondra Road,
under the railway tracks, the bottom floor of a rotten house
that we affectionately called The Pit,
and while we were all dancing one morning
the prefab flat in the back burnt down gloriously
and later the landlord collected his insurance,
that tenant—by good fortune—being put out just beforehand

and around then I fell on my head;
a stay in The Mater followed by appointments,
more appointments and an ambulance chaser,
so though sometimes one eye looked back bigger than the other
the claim was in, and everyone grew impatient
in anticipation of the payout,
black mould over the bed, no heating, no hot water,
seven of us paid rent there for another year more.

8 North Frederick Street, a two-room flat at the back
with bars on the windows and a shower in the bedroom,
three of us in it until the landlord spotted my bump
and at eight months pregnant he called round to give me
four weeks’ notice: this place was not suitable
for children, he said kindly, and him and his muscular son
with The Sun in his pocket
stood over me while I scrubbed at the carpet
trying to get the stains out that he said had cost me my deposit,
and I scrubbed with that belly nearly touching the floor
for 400 pounds and still didn’t get it.

Carrying black sacks of our lives up the road
after finally finding a flat that would take us
but when I went in for the rent allowance they wouldn’t allow it,
this place too was unsuitable, they say calmly
but I’m hysterical, all the way back there
to pack up again, almost on the due date
and with no idea where we were going

but someone was moving out from a nice corner house—
27 Primrose Street, and she had a kid too so it would be cool
and for a while it was,
but the mould soon grew on the wall,
gas heating we couldn’t afford to use
but the glass coals looked nice with the light on behind them
and we had problems that had nothing to do with walls.
Though before the end of that four-weeks notice
a skip appeared with the last of our stuff thrown in it
while we were out, the locks changed, and I wept for weeks
over a moses basket I had wanted to keep.

More fortunate than many, my son and I
were offered back out to the seaside by my mother and husband
and stayed over a year in their two-bedroom flat,
his father soon becoming my ex—
that same night leaving the couch he was surfing
to sleep on the streets, in and around Stephan’s Green mostly,
so we’d go in nearly every day on the Dart to see him
and to see him decay,
pushing the pushchair with dread up the road
craning to get a sight of him first, to wave,
wait till he got up off the cardboard at least
before the pushchair got closer, then one day
we’re walking along
nearing another man curled up in a doorway
and my two-year-old boy calls out with joy
there’s Daddy!

and coming back to that flat
12 Eden Park, the best yet,
bay windows, no rent-rise or notice
just an incredible lonely view of the sea,
and then my money came through,
the head injury paid off
and we were gone
into the west

and it took years
to learn we can paint the walls, put up shelves, pictures,
or take them down, grow food, shift things around,
that it’s allowed—no one is coming to throw us out

so my children don’t know what it’s like yet to move, be insecure,
to not know where you’re going to be, or for how long,
to keep everything always half unpacked—
but I will never forget.