Come Dine with Me; The Bingo Truce; Installation

Three illustrated poems. During the war in Northern Ireland, I was targeted by paramilitaries because of the religion I was born into. In the art performances photo-documented below, I wanted to process and emerge from trauma by using art to help my society do the same.

One performance called 'Come Dine With Me' was part of a series of performance and installation pieces entitled 'Dinner After the Explosion' staged at Crescent Arts Centre in 1982. I invited the audience to 'do dinner talk' with me in a stylised restaurant setting, then exploded bags of coloured paint across my body, the table, dishes and the floor.

Come dine with me

at this topless table, sit on these chairs with no seats,
read the hanging menu, order wine and bread.
My mouth is wrapped in silence, feathers quiet me.
You do the dinner talk, use plates and cutlery hanging in the air.
I have so much to say if I open my mouth
words will spew like the ash of Hiroshima.
I wear a marriage dress in memory of that great din,
fire and debris before the sirens cry.
Smoke rolled upward, murderess to Heaven.
I could not run or I would have run forever,
the country so full of trouble, too anxious to let me sleep.
So join me, join me, let us eat the last supper,
might heal unseen wounds, might sweeten my upside down world,
and rid me of my deepening chaos.


The Bingo Truce

He flung himself to the ground
at the barracks on Platers Hill
and crawled his way to Pagnis,
racket of rifles.
It was only cigarettes he wanted.
He edged himself the long way home,
cursing the day he left England.
At the door he met his wife
dressed and ready to go.
The shooting’s bad tonight
you can’t go out, he wheezed
through a grey cloud of smoke.
Fixing blonde curls she sighed,
don’t you know after all this time,
they stop when ma and me
walk down to bingo?

Installation

Two goats graze in our garden
off the Malone Road in Belfast.
Each morning we put them in a horse box
drive them through Shaftesbury Square
to Royal Avenue. Release them at Carlisle Circus
lead them along York Street to the Art College.
Punks with pink Mohicans cheer us.
Shoppers laugh out loud,
a few moments when souls are free
from the fear of a bomb.
It’s the doormen who try to stop us
as the genteel creatures foul the floor
with neat brown balls of dung.
But this time we have a paper
which says:
Goats are part of the exhibition.
These wide eyed animals like the lift.
When we let them free for the day
where grass grows in a studio
and bales of hay hang low
they munch and ignore
the smell of oil paint
and rancid discontent.


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