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Mark performed 'Cocks and Hearts' at Bbeyond in Belfast on 25th October 2008 as part of the 'I Am' Irish/Polish performance festival.

photos by Catherine Devlin, thank you!

malarial and diffident
We were intruders
we were nonpersons, specters, invisible and unseen
The indifference, of course, was studied
pretensions to puritanism, radical nationalism
and of course
those other embarrassments
the opium smoking, begging, and uncovered

a secluded corner
a semisecrecy
the necessary bribes had been paid
policemen attendant with machine guns
Cocks armed
with steel spurs sharp enough to cut off a finger

Everything was dust and panic
cocks are fighting
but actually it is men

Action - uncover chicken, hold in arms and stroke show to audience

the deep psychological
identification of men with their cocks is unmistakable.
The double entendre here
is deliberate
the same tired jokes, strained puns, and uninventive obscenities.

The conception of the body as a set
of separately animated parts
cocks are viewed as detachable, self-operating penises,
ambulant genitals with a life of their own

“hero,” “warrior,”
“champion,” “man of parts,” “political candidate,”
“bachelor,” “dandy,” “lady-killer,” and “tough

A pompous man whose behavior presumes above his station is compared to a
tailless cock who struts about as though he had a large, spectacular one.
A desperate man who makes a last, irrational effort to extricate himself from an impossible situation is likened to a dying cock who makes one final lunge at his tormentor to drag him along to a common destruction.
A stingy man, who promises much, gives little, and begrudges that is
compared to a cock which, held by the tail, leaps at another without in fact engaging him.
A marriageable young man still shy with the opposite sex or someone in a new job anxious to make a good impression is called “a fighting cock caged for the first time.”

Court trials, wars, political contests, inheritance disputes, and street arguments are all
compared to cockfights

But the intimacy of men with their cocks is more than metaphorical

Men spend an enormous amount of time with their favorites, grooming them, feeding them, discussing them, trying them out against one another, or just gazing at them with a mixture of rapt admiration and dreamy self-absorption.

hips down, shoulders forward, knees up fashion, half or more of them will have a rooster in his hands, holding it between his thighs, bouncing it gently up and down to strengthen its legs, ruffling its feathers with abstract sensuality,
pushing it out against a neighbor’s rooster to rouse its spirit, withdrawing it toward his
loins to calm it again now and then, to get a feel for another bird, a man will fiddle
this way with someone else’s cock for a while, but usually by moving around to squat in place behind it, rather than just having it passed across to him as though it were merely
an animal.

Action 2 - paint face red and green - place glove on head and trim. Drink bear and spit over the chicken. Attach blades to chicken. Tape hammer (or knife to arm)

In the houseyard, the high-walled enclosures where the people live, fighting cocks are kept in wicker cages, moved frequently about so as to maintain the optimum balance of sun and shade.
They are fed a special diet, which varies somewhat according to individual
theories but which is mostly maize, sifted for impurities with far more care than it is
when mere humans are going to eat it and offered to the animal kernel by kernel. Redpepper is stuffed down their beaks and up their anuses to give them spirit. They are bathed in the same ceremonial preparation of tepid water, medicinal herbs, flowers, and onions in which infants are bathed, and for a prize cock just about as often.

Their combs are cropped, their plumage dressed, their spurs trimmed, their legs massaged, and they are inspected for flaws with the squinted concentration of a diamond merchant.

A man who has a passion for cocks, an enthusiast in the literal sense of the term, can spend most of his life with them, and even those, the overwhelming majority, whose passion though intense has not entirely run away with them, can and do spend what seems not only to an outsider, but also to themselves an inordinate amount of time with them.
“I am cock crazy,” my landlord, used to moan
as he went to move another cage, give another bath, or conduct another feeding.
“We’re all cock crazy.”
The madness has some less visible dimensions, however, because although it is true that cocks are symbolic expressions or magnifications of their owner’s self, the narcissistic male ego writ out in Aesopian terms, they are also expressions- and rather more immediate ones-of what we regard as the direct inversion, aesthetically, morally, and metaphysically, of human status: animality.

Our revulsion against any behavior as animal-like can hardly be overstressed.
Babies are not allowed to crawl for that reason. Incest, though hardly approved, is a much less horrifying crime than bestiality. (The appropriate punishment for the second is death by drowning, for the first being forced to live like an animal.)

Most demons are represented-in sculpture, dance, ritual, myth-in some real or fantastic animal form. The main puberty rite consists in filing the child’s teeth so they will not look like animal fangs. Not only defecation but eating is regarded as a disgusting, almost obscene activity, to be conducted hurriedly and privately, because of its association with animality.

Even falling down or any form of clumsiness is considered to be bad for these
Aside from cocks and a few domestic animals-oxen, ducks-of no emotional
significance, we are aversive to animals and treat our large number of dogs
not merely callously but with a phobic cruelty. In identifying with his cock, the
man is identifying not just with his ideal self, or even his penis, but also, and at the
same time, with what he most fears, hates, and ambivalence being what it is, is fascinated by-The Powers of Darkness.

The connection of cocks and cockfighting with such Powers, with the animalistic demons that threaten constantly to invade the small, cleared off spaces in which we have so carefully built our lives and devour its inhabitants, is quite explicit. A cockfight,
any cockfight, is in the first instance a blood sacrifice offered, with the appropriate
chants and oblations, to the demons in order to pacify their ravenous, cannibal hunger.
No temple festival should be conducted until one is made. (If it is omitted someone will inevitably fall into a trance and command with the voice of an angered spirit that the oversight be immediately corrected.) Collective responses to natural evils - illness, crop failure, volcanic eruptions-almost always involve them.
In the cockfight, man and beast, good and evil, ego and id, the creative power of
aroused masculinity and the destructive power of loosened animality fuse in a bloody drama of hatred, cruelty, violence, and death. It is little wonder that when, as is the
invariable rule, the owner of the winning cock takes the carcass of the loser- often torn limb from limb by its enraged owner-home to eat, he does so with a mixture of social embarrassment, moral satisfaction, aesthetic disgust, and cannibal joy.

Action 3 - smash cock to bits inorder to reveal cards

10-9, 9-8, 8-7, 7-6, 6-5, 5-4, 4-3, 3-2, 2-1
doc robinson
blue face
1-2, 2-3, 3-4, 4-5, 5-6, 6-7, 7-8, 8-9, 9-10 even money
colonel givens
regular grey
brown red
irish dome

Action 4 - try to repair cock

the handler of the wounded cock has
been working frantically over it, like a trainer patching a mauled boxer between rounds,
to get it in shape for a last, desperate try for victory. He blows in its mouth, putting
the whole head of the cock in his own mouth and sucking and blowing, fluffs it, stuffs its wounds with various sorts of medicines, and generally tries anything he can think of to arouse the last ounce of spirit which may be hidden somewhere within it. By the time he is forced to put it back down he is usually drenched in blood, but, as in prize
fighting, a good handler is worth his weight in gold. Some of them can virtually make the dead walk, at least long enough for the second and final round.

In the climactic battle (if there is one; sometimes the wounded cock simply expires in
the handler’s hands or immediately as it is placed down again), the cock who landed the first blow usually proceeds to finish off his weakened opponent. But this is far from an inevitable outcome, for if a cock can walk he can fight, and if he can fight, he can kill, and what counts is which cock expires first. If the wounded one can get a stab in and stagger on until the other drops, he is the official winner, even if he himself topples over an instant later.

Action 5 - fall over onto cock

What sets the cockfight apart from the ordinary course of life, lifts it from the realm
of everyday practical affairs, and surrounds it with an aura of enlarged importance is
not, as functionalist sociology would have it, that it reinforces status discriminations
(such reinforcement is hardly necessary in a society where every act proclaims them), but that it provides a metasocial commentary upon the whole matter of assorting human beings into fixed hierarchical ranks and then organizing the major part of collective existencearound that assortment. Its function, if you want to call it that, is interpretive: it is a reading of human experience; a story we tell ourselves about ourselves.

Action 6 - reveal cock cards - exit

(c) Mark Greenwood 2oo8