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withkindpermissionofRhonddaCynonTafLLibraryArchives

A gap now

….

The bridge has been taken away

I told you about the old bridge

that was there before

the bridge that was there before

where

the tin shed cinema stood

keeping its darkness

inside…in.

Memory

of…

running from the film …show

running from the… dark

across the …bridge

into the intense colour of the park

I was always running then

I was three.

Doctors were paid,

to write “heart failure”,

or heart stopped,

on the death certificate

of miners –

silicosis or pneumoconiosis,

“miners lung,”

inhaled coal dust in plain words

were not words

in the doctors vocabulary.

Apparently.

But the doctors were paid

by the mining companies,

so the widows’,

the children,

were not compensated

for the loss of a man’s wage,

for living their lives in poverty.

The gap is there.

I am interested

in the space,

the gap

between

and what is unsaid.

I am always running.

But never away.

©robcullen01012021

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In February 2019 two days and nights of heavy rain brought a flood that swept through Pontypridd’s celebrated War Memorial Park. Swept away a storage container that builders were using and damaged the Park bridge. That bridge is not the bridge in the foto’s above…that bridge is the bridge I ran out of the tin shed Cinema and crossed into the Park to disappear and keep on running. From what I do not know.

It’s funny because for most of my adult life I think of myself as running towards the fire like a fireman, or a policeman. I spent so much of my working life working with the most dangerous, the most damaged, the most…I ran towards…what?…Or was I running away from running away?

In the valley — South Wales is a land of valleys — there are always rivers, flood rivers, and when I was a child the rivers ran black. Black from the coal washed in the mines into the rivers. Black as the coal dust in the miners lungs. The rivers run clean today. Everybody says that-followed by remembrances of when the river was black. Except the river is not running clean. It’s filled with plastic thrown in, somewhere up stream, that’s swept down river every time it floods and the plastic and everything else that’s been thrown in litters the river beaches, and hangs from the beautiful trees that line the rivers banks.

The river is the living embodiment of the hypocrisy of the generations who love David Attenborough, Greta Schonberg and all the other people trying to save the planet. But the river cries out in the way that only a river can —

FILTH F ILTH FILTH FILTH FILTH…I am defiled.

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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.

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

Here There Everywhere Gone

Rob CullenJan 17 · 4 min read

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

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foto©robcullen30012021.

NOT HERE ANYMORE NO MORE.

Rob CullenFeb 4 · 2 min read

Telephone call came at five,

To tell her he’d died

At four thirty,

Died in his sleep peacefully.

She listened in the darkness,

It was morning,

But it lightness wouldn’t come,

For four more hours.

She made a cup of tea,

Sat in the quiet of the kitchen,

Everything was quiet now,

So she made lists of who to call.

It was two hours before she would call

The three children,

Let them sleep in the quietness,

Let them lie like she used to.

She stopped herself from saying

“when he was alive”

Now she’d have to get used

To thinking of him — dead, not here.

Not here, lifeless, not here

Anymore, no more,

But he lived, he had a life,

I am his wife I am here.

He did good things, but he is not here.

No more, any more. No more.

Not here anymore, no more.

It will be light, it will be morning.

Written for my sister Maeve who is here.

Maeve who is always here.

When the Cadman’s arrived in Northern Ireland in the early 1960’s, the Roman Catholic population did not have political representation. They had the vote but the choice on offer to them was Protestant Unionist parties. The UK Labour Party was not allowed to set up its stall in Northern Ireland and Unionism was all powerful in the six counties. Roman Catholics were exposed to a hate environment extolled by Unionists. Housing conditions were poor, unemployment rife as was poor health.

Keith and his friend John Hume set up the SDLP along with other quiet men and women. They saw that political representation would lead to full emancipation for the Catholic population — Keith Cadman was one of those quiet men who worked behind the scenes, but whose quiet work in the end moved mountains. It should be remembered.

Without the SDLP and John Hume the Northern Ireland Peace Agreement wouldn’t have taken place.

We have a reason to be proud of quiet men.

We have a reason to be proud of the women who stood at their backs through it all.

©robcullen30012021.

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