Scaffolding for waking blocks

Notes from Occupied Moore St.

Three builders hats are stacked on the scaffold like turtles at love-making. The footsteps of them who have come to have a look are tripped with white dust and red-brick and chalk. By the wooden ladders up the scaffold the Dublin daylight falls at irregular angles, and leaves one side of you warmed, and the other cold. It passes into a half smoked cigarette and the hand of the big woman smoking it. Do you know how this one ends, she asks you. No, I don’t, you think, or say. Burnt, she tells you, and turns and goes and throws the butt into the rubble. But you’re not quite sure.

It’s a narrow passageway, the occupied zone between the buildings and the scaffold of Moore Street, and the light doesn’t stretch far through, but people make their own light. They’re right when they say that the buildings are gutted. They’re being made up to be torn down. As they were locked out, and the occupation began, one of the workers left a mirror sitting on a stack of bricks inside the shell of one of buildings. It’s a small mirror; a handheld one, and it is much more difficult to forget than the screwdriver or hammer that you expect to see there. No one says much about the workers. You’re not so sure if they are the ‘they’ or the ‘us’ that people keep mentioning. Maybe it’s everybody, or nobody. Maybe it’s everybody but the government, and the government. Maybe it’s everybody who has forgotten the government, and everyone who hasn’t. It’s a hard question so no one asks, like at school: even the teacher wants the class to end before he can get there. The divides do not seem to make clear sense. It’s even hard to figure out which building is which. But maybe this is the place to ask, though some things make you wonder and so maybe it isn’t. What kind of sense have we been taught though?

There are families with children passing through. And a big square headed dog. You move down the passageway and everyone says, how are ya. Anarchy is quietly, though someone has designated a smoking area, and something is being said about health and safety, and about where they’re allowed to play the tin whistle and the bodhrán, and even one or two other things, until people catch themselves on, and softly think for lyrics so as they might sing.

In one of the last buildings, at the far end of the passageway, a lamp burns up from where it has been sat on the rough ground. There’s a roll of biscuits beside it, and a rolled-up sleeping bag. And the two of them are metallic purple and shine a bit in the burn of the lamp, but everything else in the building is too concentrated to catch its shine. All of the coats of all the men and women are dark and matte and dense. They are serious and excited. There are small bits of concrete and brick in their cups of tea, and they talk and discuss and argue and drink them. The false shine and purple jar out from the corner as you pass through, and remind you of the IRA flag that you saw hung over the scaffolding, showing to the street. It was only one of many flags, but who wanted it there? Why had no one asked it to be taken down? Why hadn’t you? And you think that something radical would be all that and its dogma being left behind. And you think that it has no place. And that that might explain it. Did you hear about the Corrib, someone says sharply as the flag furls out of view.

The space is full of uncles and aunts and nephews and nieces, and sweethearts and feeling, and ad-hoc committees, and meetings. And in the meetings people stand in tiny circles and look at each others’ breath as they talk. And they talk about fighting eviction and about christmas and a new year and about good humour and pains in your back and getting off drugs and on who to call when in your mind is dulled and aching. And they do it and know to do it and no one tells them how. They ask no permission; there are no footnotes. And all the feet of them who’ve come and all their words trample on papers strewn about among the rubble because the papers say that those feet and those words would like reassurances from the government about their plans for the buildings, when this is not what they want. And there is a sign hung from the scaffolding by the passageway outside that reads, unfinished scaffolding, unsafe, and you do not just wonder of what the woman said to you about how things would end, you wonder about yourself, and about what you might do to effect how things are.

Drawings: Yaro Erler - BlackFish Media Cooperative
Words: Michael Phoenix - BlackFish Media Cooperative