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
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
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
Into the hands of a big strong man
The baby feels wanted for a second
And then he’s thrown
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,
(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
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.