Lockdown Reflections on Grey

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foto©robcullen16012021.

Lockdown Reflections on Grey

Waves of lines, white tides, rollers moving,

breaking on another shore, in another time,

waves rolling in silence, slow as mercury

silver shimmering, there is no sun in this sky

It is a panorama without feature, or horizon,

I can fix my gaze outward — it is fixed anyway,

Sunlight moves across the unmoving vista,

Unchangeable, while slow grey traffic passes.

The windows of people’s houses have the blinds drawn,

Now and then, I used to see someone look out from their window,

They never looked at me, they never waved, or made any sign,

I stopped seeing people, one day there was no one to see.

I used to see people walk past, old couples mostly,

They became fewer, sometimes ones, rarely twos,

The people walked very slowly. Walking so slowly,

It was like watching someone move in slow motion.

There are no people walking past – it becomes dark,

and the houses opposite don’t show their lights,

The supermarket truck used to deliver every week,

I’d see the same men, they’d ask how I am.

The deliveries changed to just once a fortnoight,

the drivers just leave the boxes outside the door.

A woman used to come out of her house and stand,

Waiting for the bus to go into town, she stopped

Standing at the bus stop. The bus stopped coming one day.

Something felt wrong, it was because the bus never came.

There were always ambulance sirens, blaring night and day,

Blue lights flashing, when they pass the house, they are gone.

I take no notice now. It is constant. They will stop one day.

Outside this house to take me and I will be gone too.

Where are the people who believed in miracles? Why are they quiet?

People in the concentration camps asked — Where is god?

They announced there are vaccinations coming for everyone,

They made it sound as if our scientists had performed a miracle,

they sounded like they believed a miracle had happened,

could a vacine be found for depression and mental health?

©robcullen16012021.

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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.

Bridging

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foto©robcullen13012021

“Our lives are but specks of sand — better to use the time we have usefully.”

In this time of fractures

Of the emergence

Of old hatreds

The telling of lies

When politicians, our leaders

Seem unable to refrain

From encouraging fear

We need to build bridges not walls.

Bridges aren’t just about getting somewhere

In this age of having to get somewhere

Bridges are about connections

About joining one side to another

To join the divides and separations

Bridges span different views

Bridges connect generations

We need to build bridges not walls.

Bridges make things come together

Make old and new things one

Bridges make life possible

Bridges span and connect

Bridges aren’t about divisions

Bridges join and mend

We need to build bridges not walls.

Bridging the gulf between us

Help us to speak to one another

Allow us to bring things in

Allow us to take things out

Allow us to meet and share

Allow us to see things anew

Bridges join and renew

We need to build bridges not walls.

To span divides, connect, renew

Bridges are life givers

So not let divides

Part us from life

Or keep us away from one another

Bridges give meaning not walls

So let’s build bridges together

We need to build bridges together not walls

We need to build bridges together not walls

We need to build bridges not walls.

….

©robcullen13012021

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foto©robcullen13012021

“Our lives are but specks of sand – better to use the time we have usefully- build bridges not walls.”

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.

After the Spate had fallen.

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foto©robcullen210216

There’s a tide in the affairs of men,
A moon in the affairs of women.

Death and Nightingales ­- Eugene McCabe.

Without respite, a month’s worth of rain fell over a day, through a night.

Unrelenting from lead black skies, in truth, it felt like a judgement of spite.

After the flood waters had fallen, I walked the debris-littered river beach,

tattered plastic festoons hung from trees branches, fluttering, wind strewn.

Where white-grey sand had lain, once flecked with old red sandstone,

brought down from Pen-y-fan*, to rest and lie for a while on the river shore.

Now all is gone, a few bared stones hang on, a tree trunk fallen long ago,

exposed by the floods scouring rip and roar. And everywhere,

the signs of man’s disrespect, of careless stupidity, for the hills, for the rivers,

and the old meadow lands, where I walk each day, raked by desolation now.

The heron has taken up its usual quarter, eating anything that moves nearby.

But the salmon avoids its spring run to the reds, where they were born.

The moon commands the spring tide to rise and stem the waters flow,

and cleansing will slow, so maybe the salmon will stay far out at sea.

The woman, walking the river shore, hunkers down on her knees,

places the blue river glass she’s found to her eye and feels once again,

the coloured glass in her hand, shaped by the sand and the rivers flow,

smoothed over months and years, while the silent ghost moon looks on.

©robcullen16122020

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Post card of the “Old Bridge” Pontypridd built by William Edwards in 1756. Down stream the Victoria Bridge completed in 1857. Both bridges built due to torrential flooding that prevented crossing the Taff river by ford.

*Pen y fan is the highest mountain in South Wales.

In February 2020 a storm hit South Wales. A month’s amount of rain fell in two days. Pontypridd town was flooded, and so many homes and shops were devastated by the floodwater. Three Bridges were closed — thankfully not the Victoria Bridge, which carries one of the main road arteries connecting the town to the motorway network. Shops have moved to vacant premises which are above the flood zone. It’s a slow process. And even now many retail premises are closed, and the town has the feel of a place that is going through hard times and an unstoppable decline.

Homeowners who suffered the worst of the flooding were those whose homes had been built along the sides of the river, but sometime back had been flood-proofed and thought safe. Such was the scale of the flooding on this occasion, no flood-proofing stood a chance of holding the floodwaters back. It was a warning that, with climate change and the ominous reality that flooding on this scale in these narrow spate river valleys will become regular events, we had better be prepared and change so much of what we do.

Mountains stripped of trees by clear-felling so that the ability of the mountains to “hold” water and slow its movement to the river are seriously impeded; together with farm land left bear over winter so that there is a continuous erosion of soil and, again, no holding back of rain water. And everywhere the concretisation of large areas so that water just runs off even more swiftly into a river already gorged with flood.

The town is steadily pulling itself back together. I’m constantly amazed by the resilience folk are showing in the face of what has been two devastating blows, the flood and Covid19. But the struggle to survive the hardship life throws is at the heart of valleys people.

But like Covid19, the floods and extreme weather events, such as the floods of February 2020, have been a warningthat lifestyles and industry have to change. Its dismaying to hear of the call for a return to the old days, when the economy will get back to “normal” and the destruction of Earth continues. The announcements of the release of the vaccines has been accompanied by a call to return to normality. But what on earth does that normality mean? And at what price?

The floods that besieged Pontypridd, a small town in Wales have also been replicated all over the world. A flag is being waved. Sit up and take note.

And we wait for February’s rain whatever that will bring!

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.

In a time of contagion

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foto©robcullen012016

You cannot call my name.

We will remember for all time the summer of this year

when last Spring, woodlands and forests had a quietness

almost an expectation

as if the trees knew and were waiting.

I would not describe it as tenseness,

the quiet wasn’t peaceful either.

It was what I would describe as resignation

if I were to attach it to a humans form.

After the heavy rains of winter,

people described them as exceptional,

rains the like of which no one could remember.

No one had seen such rain who was still living.

Out on the openness of the mountains plateau.

It was different.

On the hill above the village,

water took the shape of fear.

Carried on the edge of the wind,

its swiftness gave no cause for concern,

gave no cause for the alarm to be raised,

or bells to be rung on the church belfries and spires.

The smell of death spread thinner than wisps

of smoke, through hard weather whitened grassland,

barely visible,

beyond the horizon, its source unseen, at first,

but what did that matter in any case,

it was what it did when it arrived,

for all to see,

that was what mattered.

Death came anyway.

It used a cipher to hide behind, another’s form,

another’s name, to confuse, to distract.

Tell me your name. It is useless to ask.

I have no name

I am nameless

I am as old as time.

©robcullen31122020

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“The hill of sorrow.” foto©robcullen31122020

Death comes easily. It is always there — always near, always close by waiting. In March 2020, I suffered heart failure and came close to death. I didn’t survive because of luck — although I was lucky. I lived because of the professionalism of medical staff in our local hospital’s Accident & Emergency Unit. I was discharged five days later after two operations and a defibrillator pacemaker. That wasn’t luck. I know that if I lived in another country without a National Health Service I would be dead — death would have had its way.

I listen to the news casts each day, hear the latest covid stats — the number of new cases and the number of dead. Occasionally I see photos of crowds of people celebrating, ignoring the risks and the consequences, and the following week the spike in the stats that follows as sure as night follows day. I muse on whether people place so little value on their lives that they are willing to place themselves at such great risk. It suggests to me a mass Russian roulette.

I avoid crowds or social events in which there will be a large gathering. I am an artist, writer, poet who enjoys my own company and isolation doesn’t weigh heavily on me. More importantly it gives me time. Time to write, time to read, time to play with pen and wash. And there is so much to see, feel, smell and breathe in. Every walk offers a richness of opportunity. I do not live in a town or a city but on the outskirts of a town in wooded countryside. On the last day of the year 2021 I think I am lucky.

©robcullen31122020

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

The Trick has been played, Coyote moves on

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credit: Norse research project.weekly.com

Puca watched his brother Coyote

Fall from the tail of White Headed Eagle again

Fall far from the sun and Immortality un-gained.

Another of Coyote’s tricks unhinged, another fall.

Puca knew Coyote would take on another shape

Always with the same voice, wise people would not listen to.

But the poor and wretched needing hope might.

Puca watched Coyote transform into another form.

As sure as night followed day, a trick would be played,

So that Coyote would reach the Sun and Immortality.

Puca smiled it is the endless game the Trickster plays,

Puca feels restless, there’s always another game to be played.

©robcullen11012021.

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credit: An Puca

Puca are important mythological figures in the Celtic world. The Puca is a shape shifter. Puca are capable of good; but also capable, in their sinister form, of terrible life changing harm. Jung took a great interest in Celtic Mythologies particularly with stories about figures like the Púca in Irish folk tales. Púca is the Archetypal “Trickster”.

….

On rare occasions, the Púca was said to have the power of human speech. They used human words when they needed to lead a human away from harm. This is why humans were so afraid of Púcas: they could bring terrible misfortune, or they could save your life.When you met them, you weren’t ever sure which twist of fate to be ready for.

Coyote, Loki and Puca are all Tricksters.

And so the late President, Trickster in Chief — “All hail the Chief” — has attempted to emulate Coyote and reach the Sun and immortality and has failed. Trump has fallen as he must do! And like Coyote he must try again!

©robcullen11012021.

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credit: Dr. Catherine Svehla

Resistance Poetry

Verse as Commentary

Following

204

2

204 claps

2 responses

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

Following

Verse as Commentary

Here There Everywhere Gone

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foto©robcullen16012016. The bandstand a place for teenage tryst, ghosts haunt the place now.

Here There Everywhere Gone

In this place there are empty shapes.

Spaces, moving. Here, there, everywhere.

Spaces moving among us, about us.

The shape of the missing,

we no longer hear, or see.

People we once knew, touched,

talked with, laughed with, cried to,

they were features of this place, this town,

they are missing now. Do we miss them?

Do we have a sense of the empty space they once filled?

Once, not so long ago, a month or so,

when I was engaged on my daily walk,

I would meet older people, some very old,

Late 80s, early nineties, uncomplaining,

walking chipper, a smile, a wave.

Once I found a friend on the new river bridge,

he began reminiscing, memories of the river,

of the sandbanks below the old bridge,

when GI’s threw coins onto the river bank,

they were leaving for D day — here, there, gone.

Coins they would never need again, useless.

He and his friends crossed the river,

on the stepping stones marking the old ford,

the stepping stones are gone, destroyed

by a flood prevention scheme — history gone.

Missing, like those GI’s, missing like my friends.

He mused, my friends are missing too.

A woman in her nineties, the oldest.

Fit as a fiddle, mind as bright as a pin,

sharp as a needle, and no side on her.

One day she talked about some clubs.

Places she went to with friends during the war.

Tin shed clubs, what would be called shabeens,

few of them standing today, she talked of the dancing,

her eyes sparkled, she was always laughing.

She walked her neighbour’s dog to the park.

It was something to do through winter,

something to keep her mind occupied.

The last time I saw her, she was running

through moving traffic, dragging the dog.

She disappeared then, no sight of her since.

One day I asked, is this like a game being played?

Like hide and seek, or blind man’s bluff?

Shall we look for them in the garden?

Out in the shed, or the garage, or in the attic?

Under the carpets, under the trendy oak floors?

Behind the doors? — they must be somewhere.

We will look for where they are hiding. Hidden

away from us, gone away from us, gone.

This is a place,

Where time becomes a word — why?

This is a place, where breath takes the form of a question.

How did this happen?

This is a place, where a last breath marks a person

passing.

Gone.

Where? There? Everywhere? Missing?

Gone?

©robcullen08012021

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unable to credit foto of the open market Pontypridd.
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unable to credit foto of the open market Pontypridd.

Pontypridd Town is a meeting place — it is also the place which all the characters in the poem are elderly residents, the place they grew up in, had fun, worked raised families and lived long lives.

The town is a meeting place, a meeting of three rivers and valleys where a large indoor market and open market have been established. The town is a bustling, busy, thriving, place of skullduggery and sharp deals; once a boom town, now a town that has seen hard times and looks a little down at heel. It could do with a little luck — my cheery elderly friends have seen it all — the ups and downs, a depression, a war — and came through it all with a cheerfulness that brings a smile when I think of them.

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with thanks to Rhondda Cynon Taf library archives.

Pontypridd is a place of Easter and Summer Fairs — Danter’s Fairs that plied all the valley towns. Fairs that are the remnants of the old festivals to mark the solstice and the Christian calendar — the older context lost in the newer religious puritan revival’s disdain for such activities and as a result we have lost so much. Loss again…

My friends talked a lot about Danter’s fairs, a meeting place for the young. The Fair still comes to Pontypridd, rides that reflect the horror liked by this generation bread and buttered on online gothic terror. It’s a young persons pleasure. But it always was.

Covid has heightened not just the deaths of the elderly, but the loss of knowledge and memories of their lives and experiences. Memories that are unrecorded. We are unable to hand them on.

Missing

Here. There. Everywhere. Gone.

©robcullen10012021