Uncertain times

Rob CullenMar 9

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Uncertain times.

I see only forgotten men
Living in places
With once famous names
I hear only words,
Of tales and deeds,
Of days of women and men,
Long since forgtten
Long since dead.

And in these times of uncertainty,
People live surrounded
By purposeless decline.
A landscape of waste,
And those twisted lines,
Of once white shone steel,
Polished by the unce\asing grind
Of the turning wheel,
That now lie hidden by elder.
And gathering the dirt brown stain
Of rust and disuse,
Map out the death struggle
Of this dark place,
And in this uncertainty people live.
Writhing in its decay
Its history ensnares
The withering and hopeless present.
But its people refuse to cry out.
Anger has been replaced,
By that silence of regret,
That pitiless lament,
Of resignation and acceptance.
Some say it is our age,
As if we were born in other times
And others days,
Or as if this turmoil,
And unceasing uncertainty,
Was of our own making.

It has taken one hundred years
To silence and forget,
To carve away with such precision.
One hundred long hard years,
To isolate those memories,
To purge our dreams,
And cut with all the accuracy
Of liquid golden steel,
The misery of generations,
The torments of our people,
Of the years of our childhood,
And before.
We can do nothing.
We can say nothing.
We are not listened to.
This is the song of our people,
We suffer, we suffer,
We have cried too much,
We have cried much too long
And we have become lost.
But do not stir us,
For we are dark dogs,

We are shadow dogs,
We sleep in motionless terror.
Do not speak to our hearts
Of indignities, of suffering.
Do not kindle our hatred.
Do not evoke words to spur,
Our slumbering emotions.
We sleep, we sleep.


In Silence

That strange silence
When did it first occur?
Were there no witnesses?
Did no one see its coming?
Had it been something gradual?
Something that had begun
Without our knowing.
Or with that abruptness,
That quickness of the blade,
That cuts and severs,
And life without knowing,
Without recognizing its own going,
Seeps silently away.

That strange silence
When did it first occur?
Were our eyes turned away?
Our intelligence caught
By other curious happenings.
Was it that? Simply
A distraction of sorts.
Or was it something
That we secretly welcomed?
And now if there are regrets
It’s too late, much too late.
All that has been is no longer,
All that may have been,
Is now silent and forgotten.

Who will remember?
Or will it become,
A few pages here and there,
Of names and muttered words?
Some faint remembrances?
That strange vision
Of people blackened,
Standing in cobbled streets,
Faces turned towards camera,
Their eyes watching,
Looking but seeing nothing.
And we see nothing of them.
Their world, our past,
A fleeting glance caught
On the papers gloss.
And in this hour I ask –
Is that all that remains?
That strange silence.


Of words and truth.

Like grasses bundled
And withered in storm
We are blown helplessly
And not a word is spoken.
Who sings the authentic song?
Who speaks the words of truth?
Who stands for me and mine?
Who looks at what we see?
Who hears what we hear?
Who breathes the air we breathe?
Who sees what is right and wrong?
Who speaks for me and mine?
Who sings the authentic song?
Where are our heroes and poets now?


This poem was written during 1984 and was published in my first poetry collection “Uncertain Times” 2016. It is very much a poem of its time and represents the mix of defiance and despair.

In 1984 Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher decided to break the strength of the National Mine Workers after it took strike action to defend against mine closures. The government had foreseen in advance the possibility of a strike by the Miners and stockpiled vast quantities of coal reserves, it also mobilized the Police and Army who were involved in violent confrontations when miners tried to stop coal movements. In the end the government broke the strike, subsequently mines across Wales and the UK were closed down just as the Miners Union had predicted, and mining communities were devastated by largescale unemployment without any meaningful government support. The communities were overwhelmed by crime and drug misuse. There is little doubt that bringing coal mining to an end in the UK was done primarily to promote North Sea Gas and Oil.

The communities in the South Wales valleys survived, much changed, and after a long period of uncertainty, are thriving.

The photograph of the Naval Colliery, Penygraig, Rhondda was taken in 1970 while I was at Art School.Resistance Poetry

Verse as Commentary

Written by

Rob Cullen

Rob Cullen artist, writer, poet. Rob runs “Voices on the Bridge” a poetry initiative in Wales. Walks hills and mountains daily with a sheep dog at his side.

Resistance Poetry

Resistance Poetry

Verse as Commentary

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