I was the Pride of the Coombe, the old one whose steps now bear Zozimus’ name.
‘Would you look at the head of hair on that lad!’
‘Never mind the hair, what’s the weight?’
A whopper! 5 kilos the matron said.
‘What’s that in Irish so?’
‘10 pound 10 ounces.’
‘Jesus! Poor woman!’
I was brought home to Fairbrothers’ Fields
Number four in a growing gang and
I was baptised before my mother came home.
I went on a message once with a rolled up note and took it to the Convent School
And presented it to Sister Rose who tutted and sent for Tim
My older brother by thirteen months and he took me home.
It was my best day in school, any school, any day.
Later in the Big School I learned to hurl on a concrete yard
I soon learned not to miss the ball.
Electric shocks down all my arm
Who’d have thought - electrified by concrete.
I've swum with every boy in the Tenters
First in the canal, locks are best - the rubbish too deep to snag your feet.
And then in the Public baths
Not Roman but still aristocratic
Named for Lord Iveagh - a champion of the Poor
And gur cake in St Kevin’s Dairy on the way home.
I've lost foot races, too busy looking around me, so I learned to focus quickly.
I've lost at football and hurling and learned to toughen up
No prize for last, not even for second best.
I lost a dog when I was five but he came back.
I lost him again when he was five
But I think he was too big for our house by then and we were six children now
Da said he went to a farm
I learned that grown ups tell lies too.
I grew up and became a different person
Bought a car, bought a house, bought in.
Before that I had a bike built it with my brother from scavenged bits
And bought a bell for it - my pride and joy
And I bought a record once, a single flat grooved piece of black vinyl
I thought it was the Beatles
I didn't know Peter Sellers spoke ‘A Hard Day’s Night’ too
The shop wouldn't take it back
I went twice, the woman was no better to deal with
An important lesson for many reasons.
I witnessed people passing on
First my Gran, carried out of our house the day they buried Churchill
She would have been delighted to steal his limelight.
I’d heard her sing 'Kelly the Boy from Killane' and tell tall tales
And Mam calling her Mam and telling her not to make a fool of the child
For I repeated every word in school.
I saw her lose her sight and let go of hearing.
When Decían - number eight came along she said she never misheard worse
To name a child after a deck of cards
What a name for a child and Heaven only bursting out with Saints.
My Dad and Mam passed too though years apart
Angels now I hope for that was their Faith then.
I've seen new life, new love repeat
And have been blessed to see new family join the ranks and add a verse
To an ever growing song of place and family and belonging.
I'm not sure what I want to be when I grow up.