The air is bare this evening


Sitting on a chair outside our bedroom 

looking up at the mountain ridge

There was a time

in the first week of May

when the sun was setting

behind the wooded ridge

the warm air shimmered

with insects in their millions

the sounds of Martins and Swifts

Swallows too feeding in the dimming light

and now the light is bare

and everything, the hours

and the day is still…

so quiet you know it’s not right


VoicesontheBridge – 7th July 2022 6.00pm @StoryvilleBooks Pontypridd

Poetry & Music Initiative.

Voices on the Bridge Thursday 7th July at 6.00pm @Storyville Books Pontypridd- Lineup confirmed…Stephanie McNicholas, Des Mannay, Stephen Payne,Ben Wildsmith, Nicholas Mcgaughey, Susie Wild and yours truly Rob Cullen presenting and reading. Let me know if you’d like to read in the openmic.

Sadly due to work committments Sion Tomos Owen will not be readingas originally advertised.

Bio’s VoiceontheBridge Thursday 7th July 2022

Stephanie McNicholas trained as a journalist in Cardiff in the 1980s and went on to write for national and regional newspapers and magazines. Steph published her second book – WHEN PONTY ROCKED! – in 2021. It tells the stories of the many musicians from her home town in the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s.

Nicholas McGaughey lives in Pontypridd. He has new work in Bad Lilies/Stand/Lucent Dreaming/The Friday Poem and Spelt Magazine.

Stephen Payne was born in Merthyr Tydfil and lives in Penarth, South Glamorgan. His first full collection, Pattern Beyond Chance, was published in 2015 by HappenStance Press and shortlisted for Wales Book of the Year. The Windmill Proof (September 2021) and The Wax Argument and other Thought Experiments (February 2022) were published by the same press.

Susie Wild is author of the poetry collections Windfalls and Better Houses, the short story collection The Art of Contraception listed for the Edge Hill Prize, and the novella Arrivals. Her work has recently featured in Carol Ann Duffy’s pandemic project WRITE Where We Are NOW, The Atlanta Review, Ink, Sweat & Tears and Poetry Wales. She has placed in competitions including the Welshpool Poetry Festival Competition, the Prole Laureate Prize and the Mslexia Women’s Poetry Competition and performed at festivals including The Laugharne Weekend, Green Man and Glastonbury.

Ben Wildsmith was born in Birmingham at an early age and began crawling westwards immediately. He is a songwriter, journalist, support worker and anarcho-syndicalist carbuncle on the body politic. He is a Literature Wales bursary recipient and Hay Festival Writer at Work. You can read him each Sunday in Nation Cymru.

Des Mannay is a Disabled, Welsh writer of colour. Poetry collection, “Sod ’em – and tomorrow” (Waterloo Press). Co-editor ‘The Angry Manifesto’ journal. Prizewinner in 4 competitions, shortlisted in 7. Performed at many venues/festivals, in numerous poetry journals, 36 anthologies. Judge in ‘Valiant Scribe’ competition.

Rob Cullen has organised VOB since 2017. He is a gardener, environmentalist, poet, writer, artist…though not in that order at any particular time….. Throughout lockdown he was frequently published in Resistance Poetry, & The Lark, US – plus The Atlanta Poetry Review; also in the mix Culture Matters anthologies Ymlaen/Onward & Gwrthryfel/Uprising & A Fish Rots from the Head as well as “The Learned Pig” Arts Journal, Cambridge, UK. Rob’s work regularly appears in the Red Poets annuals. He’s completed two novels and trying to get these published.

Hope to see you there!

Poem for lovers day – The first place in ‘75


It was the first place we lived together

that white walled top floor flat

in an old Brighton town house.

It was a war zone of cold rooms and drafts.

we’d push newspapers rolled up and folded

into the cracks and gaps to block the blast

from the windows sash when the wind blew in

over the whipped-up roiling crazy white sea

gales that rattled windows and frames and doors.

From our bed on early December mornings

we’d watch a tower crane overhang the Kemptown

road with a Christmas tree sitting on its jib.

Those were mornings of clear skies

after the waves of the gale had receded

the gas fire’s flames flickering low, a mix of yellow and blue,

you played that scratched Baden Powell vinyl record

and the strains of the Samba Triste

filled the wooden floored rooms above Belvedere Road.

In the day we walked the sea front watching crashing waves

stir the shingle while fishermen hauled the keel boats

up through the pounding shore below the kids rides.

our love was fiery then.



An SOS from the frontier.


This is a message from the borderlands

an endless void a windswept land

it is a desert stripped bare of features.

So I whisper the message – If you could have heard

all that I’ve heard. If you could see all that I’ve seen
if you could have been there, far out there and if you

could have listened to peoples words, listened to those

broken hurting people and that place out there, in here,

in me, in you. The dark frontier, that secret place you know

I know, we know, we all know, but deny its existence.

But for me there is no choice. I cannot deny its imprint

on my mind, my memory is not blind, deaf or unfeeling.

But I wish sometimes that it might be so. Now what do I do

with these memories, the words I do not wish to store,

and hold like some mad treasure trove, archive of horrors

of mankind, of humankind the stories told and told again,

The faces change but the pain and fear, the words remain.

It’s unending, it’s our narrative as long as we survive

this story will evolve and grow for we are humans.

I worked amongst the desolation, fragments,

survivors, of lives that might have flowered.

And that endless unknowing of what might have been

of who would I have been if that had not been done

to me, to who I was, a child, and unsuspecting.


Imagine the innocence and the quiet trust.

And all that time of working to heal – denial.

A total blindness to the reality of the harm

being done to children everywhere you look.

It’s a reality, take a bus or a train, sit in a café

you will be close to someone who has survived.

And then the guaranteed denial that fact is fact

In the face of all that. And then that sound

of wheels within wheels grinding, the noise

of conversations and the deals in closed rooms

to keep silence, to protect the perpetrators

and prevent the door room from being opened

and the truth from being known and shared.

Forty years of denial, obstruction and frustration.

Our lives are brief, a mere fluttering in time.

So open the door wide and let the light in!


From Rob Cullen’s collection “Uncertain Times” published September 2016 Octavo Press.

Looking down through dead water.

foto credit Fiona Cullen

On the ferry,

I liked sitting

on the edge,

looking down,

through dead water*.

I was returning

to a place

that was

and was not

my home.

I had never

been away,


on the ferry,

looking down.

The River Suirs’

waters swirling,

muddy grey,

where it meets

the sea.

In the morning,

waiting, waiting.

Nearer now

to the quay,

where he’d be waiting,

with the brake and horses,

a pair in hand.

Home again.

Looking down through dead water.


*Deadwater – the mass of eddying water formed along a ship’s sides in her progress through the water

The space left by you


And so the small leaves come fluttering down

to quietly cover the place where you lie now.

Your disappearance expected for so long,

all the same has caught us by surprise.

Thoughts now occur of the absences

of our talks, of your loitering walks,

your love of a joke, the ease of your smile,

your anger too for a government – so cruel

of its rough trod way of breaking poor people,

of trying to destroy, a small community –

that birthed you, succoured you, raised you,

and the close-knit family from which you grew.

And this place left you the memories of its people

until it was time for you, in your way, to leave too.

And so the small leaves come fluttering down

to quietly cover the place where you lie now.


Dining late with Wolf. (And the empty chair)

It may have been just an accident of a kind that led me to find

a few lines, that began the search for more words of Farrell’s work.

But as hard as I searched I couldn’t find a book by him at all,

as I scanned the stacked shelves lined with lost memories,

the feint remains of times, of days, of others hands and eyes

I found a surprise, a collection of that other Thomas’s verse.

I carried the prize to look it over thoroughly in Bannerman’s Bar.

And as I sat and began to read the terse few lines of “The Return”,

two neatly folded cuttings fell to the floor. Thomas’s obituaries,

and the odour, gathered oldness and age wafted to me from the faded,

fragile yellowing page. And I could see the book had never been opened,

or rather had never been leafed through, pages hidden within pages.

It may have been the absence of those tell-tale lines on the spine,

or the lack of dog eared folds that might give away the sign of a verse,

a reader had once dwelled on, a preference of some kind, I suppose.

And while I sat there I was reminded once more of our stay at Ahakista,

in that August, and the hellish night when Farrell out alone disappeared,

and his body never found, in spite of all the searches over those days.

The Fastnet Race too was destroyed by that storm and as they said

in the Tin Shed pub it was the worst kind of blow to come out of nowhere.

And that strange remembrance brought another as they sometimes do

of our stay during that time with a friend in his old tumbledown cottage

overlooking Dunmanus Bay – and of the days finding fragments

of the racing boats, during our walks in the mornings gathering shore.

Thirty five years after Farrell’s unexplained death, a woman revealed 

the story of walking that night with her sons along the wind-blown edge.

She’d come across Farrell adrift in the towering waves of a sea in its rage,

and described the way he looked at her and drowned himself in order 

to prevent her losing her own life too, if she’d tried to rescue him

from the certainty of his grave, as she’d wanted to do. And so leave

her boys watching, alone and motherless. An old belief of those who worked

the sea prevented them from saving the drowning and so interrupt God’s calling.

At the supper table in Wolf’s house that night, talk would drift now and then.

In the lull’s quiet, heads would turn, listening keenly to the roar of the gale,

through the trees, and out on the hills. And now I write to let go of that feeling,

of that memory of you, of being haunted by you, and the storm that follows you.



James Gordon Farrell


(1935-01-25)25 January 1935 – ­11 August 1979(1979-08-11) (aged 44)

Bantry Bay, County Cork, Ireland.

Ronald Stuart Thomas


29 March 1913 – 25 September 2000

Pentrefelin near Criccieth.

Wolf Mankowitz

Script writer

7 November 1924 – 28th May1998

County Cork.

On the brink with narrow men.

the Cold War overshadowed much of my childhood

fear was latched and hooked onto everyday things

it was the Reds they said would do us harm

it went on through my teenage years too

that continuous threat the nuclear arsenals posed

the bombers of all sides armed, ready to go

submarines lurked in the oceans depths

then Cruise missiles came a late addition.

something changed something called détente

but the wars continued they just found a way

around that inconvenience it was simple

they stopped calling them wars

but now they’ve all caught amnesia

and fear is spreading everywhere

politicians can’t seem to help themselve

ladling fear whenever they can

it’s an all too obvious strategy

while the dismantling goes on

of Education, the National Health Service,

Social Care and so much more

it’s easy to spot the distraction of fear

while the narrow men shout watch for the reds

but meanwhile get into the Chinese bed

there is a collective amnesia at large

and we have real reason to be afraid of that

soon we’ll hear the justification for war

soon we’ll hear the need for boots on the ground

in whatever land is decided by the narrow men

and the ramping up of the war of words

to justify, bamboozle and hoodwink

that the actual threat is their stupidity

and we’ll be living in that fear time again.

meanwhile the rich get richer

and nothing has been learned

nothing has changed the narrow men

not even their history degrees.