An Irrational Equation

Jackqualyn Gray  |  Jackqualyn Gray is an artist and student on the MA Socially Engaged Art (Further, Adult & Community Education) NCAD 2013–15

  I look across the table and
I notice his fingers
Are beginning to let him down


They fumble to fold the plastic strip
And seal it to a papered wing
Compassion floods my body
And might fall out of my eyes


Tiredness is taking over.
Tonight I am the last man standing
Though between us
I have played the smallest part


The makers work long, long, hours
Discussing, negotiating,
Debating and fighting over
Infinitesimal details


Work is carried home on backs and in heads
Talked about and argued over
Moments of brilliance pop up in the middle of nowhere
The makers cook their dinner, sit at the fire and make again.
I wonder what drives them?


One is a thinker in space
Pure genius really
Months on his own he conjures up
The most beautiful things from scraps
Bits collected at the end of the line


Sometimes so tightly wound into an idea
He gets trapped inside


We have all been crawling
Around on the floor
Taping and gluing and fixing down
My knee is banjaxed
But his back is holding out
We’ll get knee-pads next year
If we’re sensible.


Patience.  A huge part of this venture
Care and love for the work
Utmost respect
For the people who join us
From all walks of life
Musicians, artists, students,
Talent that raises its hand
From all over Dublin and Ireland and beyond
From dance, and theatre and after-school clubs
Little groups that grow up out of a common need
Or on common ground
To build, and gather momentum,
To be part of this greater thing
A moment, an event of such briefness
You can’t imagine the hours, days, weeks, months it took
To dream it, to grow it, to make it and own it


Soon we’ll start to disassemble
Heartbreaking and cathartic
Time to pull apart
Much of what was made.
We keep what we can
Separate, label and box.
We gather too what we’ve learned
And store it away


What is this madness?
Its political will
We say we need it
It’s constitutional,
It’s written up
It’s the time of year that’s in it.


It’s a place reinventing itself
It’s an organisation with a mandate
It’s the neighbours
It’s an invitation twisted up your back
It’s a handful of wilful people
And the generosity of many


Write it up in a ledger,
The bottom line won’t be resolved.
It is after all
An irrational equation
And we get it.  

An Irrational Equation is a reflection on participation,  having worked on ‘Unwrapped’ 2014 Festival with Tallaght Community Arts.