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An exploration of contemporary masculinity, Volcano incorporates elements of rap, spoken word, and traditional poetry, to articulate the experiences of participants of the Foróige young men’s rap and spoken word group, Blanchardstown. Inspired and educated by these young men, Volcano explores the confines of social expectation as well as the fission of creative freedom when used to contravene such expectations. Charged, narratively rich, and undeniably immediate, Volcano questions preconceived ideas of class, gender and race, to examine what it means to be a young man in Ireland today. Written as part of OUR PLACE OUR STORIES, Volcano was first performed on Culture Night, 20th September 2019, and later released as a recorded performance online.



A Blanchardstown Kishotenketsu




Picture a newborn baby boy

crying and crying

looking for his mother

under the glare of a bare lightbulb

Little blankets kicked off its red raw body


fingers squeezed

tight and empty

full of nothing but their own grip instinct


Close to the boy

sits a transparent chalice,

symbols, flickers and sparks

moving round inside

Looks like Storm cloud and moonlight,

Looks like recognisable pictures, moving shapes.


Bayonet, Rotting potato, 

mass grave,  tumbledown cottage,

 the plough, the stars

All of it flitting and darting fast like

the hot flash of Lamplight flicking past a car,

Guinness, brass bed, smoke stacks

Tenements, Tabernacle, leather strap

Images spinning like silver inside a siren

high rise flats, white powder particles

hypodermic syringe, broken pint glass

All of it swirling like living tar inside the chalice


A pair of hands find the baby

Pick him up

Cradle him

Hold his mouth open

pour the contents of the chalice in


the baby’s crying intensifies

legs moving quicker

The baby out of breath

The crying getting stronger

it’s mouth becoming nothing 

but a widening hole


the baby is held up

like a sacrificial lamb – shook once

and slapped


Passed along

Into the hands of a big strong man

The baby feels wanted for a second


And then he’s thrown

into blackness


He’s Finn

He’s fifteen

He’s getting ready in his room


He lives on Red Dead most nights, Grand theft auto,COD

Knows the blinding flash of the apps and the newsfeed

pixel light burning the back of his eyelids

Is he looking at the screen or is it looking at him.


Dragged down the road by the hair at age five

Punched in the face when just out on his bike

Scar on his cheek, as if marked by a wolf

Baptised under a downpour of punches.


Violence on the streets violence on the screen

Stories rising up like the heads of the Hydra

Cause it isn’t only him he’s not the only one.



Coppers knee in his back getting put in cuffs

Bruises like fireworks bursts on the body

Bent teeth and black eyes before he turned thirteen

Do the streets change him or does he change the streets?


Looking in the mirror

Fixing his hair

Getting ready for a party

All his friends will be there


Last night Lying in bed 

Like he was full of wild animals

Raven losing feathers trashing round in a cage

Big black bull crashing into a gate

Gigantic piebald bashing holes through the walls.


He takes the stairs two by two

Out the door

And he’s gone.


You know where he lives, it’s not good enough for you

You read all about it – a place defined by the news

man shot in stomach outside supermarket

Two glocs seized in operation by garda 

Loaded shotgun found in undergrowth

Shots fired outside a school in West Dublin


The drip drip drip of a criminal history

Violence as insidious ideology

Fallout falling down on their heads

A belief system young men are force fed

And it gets to them. 


From another direction but headed the same way

Comes OBI young warrior same dark different baby

same poison chalice, different concoction

Alternative harms. Nigerian touchstones


Tethered to the legacy of Face me I face you

The cane the koboko and the wooden spoon

BIAFRAN flag in flames on the ground

Mobile homes in Mosney and Guda stout

Christian Church of God but in Ireland unredeemed

Cause it’s all where are ya really from, c’mon you can tell me

All it adding tension to a cord pulled back

The strings of a crossbow or the strings on a harp

Tighter and tighter til they’re ready to snap


Finn and Obi on the sesh in the same living room

In opposing corners as a party blooms

Separate possies, same sport different teams

Bit of white, bit of K or a whack of MD

These boys they’ll sort it for you, they can get what you need

But that’s not all they’re about if you know what I mean


The boys paths cross, their eyes lock.

And Obi’s mates say – what?


did you see the way he looked at you up and down

he’s throwing shapes, man, fucking clown


Something dark starts to work,

something always there

Something sitting in the room like a hand grenade


And Finn’s mates are all

He thinks he can take you I wouldn’t stand for that

What are you going to do? Fucking prick needs a slap 

Then the music stops for a few beats and there’s this silent gap

Where a dig could be thrown or a face could be slashed.


But nah, Obi stands up and just starts to rap,

and man.

(He’s fucking good)

His gang backs him up they all whoop and clap


And then Finn

He’s always had this notion right? But never really entertained it

He’s always rhyming in his head but never had the balls to say them

And he just goes for it.


And his mates they all brap and stand

And to anyone outside they look poised for battle

But it’s not a fight it’s a cypher, different schools of rap

Throwing syllables like cards or like dice in a game


It’s all read em and weep it’s all remember my name

something electric and invisible grows in that space

Something known by the bards and the griots something brand new and ancient

between two boys who simply want to be famous


Who’ve had enough of being nothing and have their eye on greatness

And like the heat that drives a fire there’s a power in the room

Something dreamed into existence from their hearts and so true

And in their separate propositions of how a rap should be vented

Two imaginations dovetail as they decide to combine sentences and

Then, their work – for people watching, well, it’s like

they see two trees growing side by side their branches intertwining,

They see one boy the ground one boy the clouds the words between the lightning

The crowd moves like an ocean ionised by crashing waves or

like some tourists caught off guard by a breathtaking landscape with

swans bursting into flight, everyones pupils dilate, 

Hairs stand on end, this is fucking great.


Two boys collaborating towards something transcendent

as they push themselves to the edge of what can possibly be said.

And then it’s over, they clasp hands, they bang chests, Mutual respect.

And everyone who was there the night that Finn and Obi met 

Say it was legend, words can’t do it justice pal.

You had to be there. And yeah


Some felt ripped off because nothing actually kicked off

Because they didn’t play to type and feed our craving for conflict

Because the poison poured into them didn’t explode and erupt

Into the horror and the drama, the thrown punch, the drawn gun

The tit for tat beefs, the chalk outlines, the blood.


And if you’re missing that part of the story then 

Well that’s a bit fucked up?

Because burning away at the base of Finn and Obi deep underneath the hurt

Was love,

And the hope, 

That sometimes, just sometimes, it can happen like this

And the power of the heart can beat the power of the fist.

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