I have spoken before about my maternal grandmother’s final home – a high rise flat in Gateshead. My paternal grandparents lived in a tenement block in Glasgow. It was on the bottom floor, with two bedrooms, a small bathroom, kitchen, and living room. Up to ten people at a time lived there (my grandmother had ten children, five of whom died before the age of five) from the 1930s to when I first went there in the 1960s. My father left when he was 17, but at 84 still calls Glasgow home.
What do you think of when you think of home? Is it the history of wallpaper that reflects the changing times? The leather three-piece suite you bought off some bloke in the pub and had to drive down long country lanes to a hidden away warehouse – but was assured it was all totally legit? (I know someone who actually bought his house from someone in the pub). Was it the smell of chip fat in the kitchen as it cools back to white, a cracked window that was never fixed, the gradual wearing away of the staircase carpet?
Lorraine Carey’s beautifully evocative poem, From Doll House Windows, is about a childhood home and the memories it still holds. “An aubergine bucket served as a toilet,/in a two foot space. Mother cursed all winter/from doll house windows where we watched/somersaulting snowflakes.” And like the poem, many of us had a pet (mine was a succession of goldfish from the fair, that usually died after two weeks), “My father brought back a storm petrel/from a trawler trip. /I homed him in a remnant of rolled up carpet -/ that matched his plumage.” But in the chaos of a young family’s house, something dark goes beyond the everyday in Lorraine’s poem; a memory of home, which will never be forgotten.
(A small note: by pure coincidence, and a reflection of how small our worlds can be, Lorraine grew up a couple of streets away from me in Coventry – who would have thought that ‘County Coundon’ could be a place of such poetic nurturing).
Lorraine Carey was born in Coventry, England and moved to Greencastle, Co. Donegal where she grew up. Her poetry has been widely published in the following: Vine Leaves, The Galway Review, Olentangy Review, Dodging the Rain, A New Ulster, Quail Bell, Live Encounters, ROPES, North West Words, Sixteen, Stanzas and Poethead and is forthcoming in Atrium and Launchpad. A past winner and runner up of The Charles Macklin Poetry Competition, she was a runner up in the 2017 Trocaire / Poetry Ireland Competition. She has contributed poetry to several anthologies and her artwork was featured as the cover image for Issue 15 of Three Drops From A Cauldron. Her debut collection From Doll House Windows – Revival Press is available from www.limerickwriterscentre.com. She now lives in Fenit, Co Kerry.
From Doll House Windows
The woodlouse dropped off the ceiling
like flaky plaster, landing on the candlewick
that failed to keep me warm in the two roomed house.
In damp darkness feeding on their own waste.
Racing rafters for the little heat in a temporary dwelling,
five minutes from Grandma’s.
An aubergine bucket served as a toilet,
in a two foot space. Mother cursed all winter
from doll house windows where we watched
somersaulting snowflakes, as evening fell.
Icicles sparkled, hung from gutters
in tapered spikes.
My father brought back a storm petrel
from a trawler trip.
I homed him in a remnant of rolled up carpet –
that matched his plumage.
Our kitchen cum every room smelt of children,
resentment, the flapping panic of his final days.
Slaters scuttled through my dreams
I tugged on my bedspread, shook them off,
disrupted my mother’s sleep as she manoeuvred
with her ghost breath sighs caught by streetlight.
She pulled the candlewick taut over her belly
the skin marked with angry tracks,
as my unborn sister stretched
in the safety of her amniotic sac.