I pay tribute again/East Coast Tribute

foto©robcullen10022015

I pay tribute again/East Coast Tribute

Recalling Browne’s

“For a Dancer”

I’m not sure

what it is

about these days

that reminds

me about those times

on the East Coast

and of that Christmas

in 73.

It wasn’t white

it just rained

grey mist collecting clinging

to the forests

on the hills

above Torrington

and so you agreed

to drive me to the house

of Harriet Elizabeth

Beecher Stowe.

So you asked

if I knew much

about her and so

I recounted her life

and you asked

how an Englishman

knew so much

about America

but you made

no reference

to black people

and slaves.

So I told you the title

of my thesis in 72

Racism and colonisation

and the way

I was brought up

in a non-conformist

Methodist tradition

you sighed

and just said

keep talking

I love the sound

of the way you talk

the way

you use words.

On another day

I paid tribute

to Dylan Thomas walking

across town

from second avenue

to Hudson and 11th

in some kind

of pilgrimage

to the White Horse Tavern

and sat still

on the shiny

red plastic

covered stool

at that long

dark wooden bar.

I ordered a beer

and recited aloud

his words

of rattling emptiness

in a place

where no hawk hunts

small birds

or sounds of child’s play

echoes shrilly

across a salt sea bay

words echoing

where a dead man

played his last

in a bar, in a city,

his presence

barely a glimmer of light

and feigned remembrance

all that now remains.

I much preferred

Finnegan’s Wake

on 1st and 73rd

the owner was

from Galway

it was where I’d meet

a Ukrainian postman

late at the end

of his shift

where we’d sit

drink Schlitz

talk about

songs and hymns,

or the days

he ran from

the Red Army Choir

the Russian cargo ship

in the Dock

in Cardiff, Wales

and he’d sing softly

Ar hyd yr nos*.

Lorca lived

for a while on 116th

near Harlem

a stretch

too far

in my white

friends eyes

but I walked there

anyway

and imagined

how this man

of Duende

and the deep songs

of the flamenco

loved this place

the sound of

its music and rhythms

the grace of the way

people smiled.

Lorca lived

for a while on 116th

near Harlem

a stretch

too far

in my white

friends eyes

but I walked there

anyway

imagining

how this man

of Duende

of the deep songs

of flamenco

loved this place

the sound of

its music and rhythms

the grace of the way

people smiled.

What would

Lorca have said

if he’d heard

the tone

of “Do not go

gentle”

and maybe

he too

would have

recognised

the Duende

in the Welsh blues

and so I recalled.

“By the East River

and the Bronx
boys were singing,

exposing their waists
with the wheel, with oil,

leather, and the hammer.
Ninety thousand miners

taking silver from the rocks
and children drawing

stairs and perspectives.”

It is the deep song

greets me

the deep song makes me rise

made me the man I was,

the man I am.

©robcullen1976.

Acknowledgement and thanks to Laura Garcia-Lorca and Garcia-Lorca Foundation for their kind response to this poem.

  • “Ar Hyd Y Nos” (English: All Through the Night) is a Welsh song sung to a tune that was first recorded in Edward JonesMusical and Poetical Relics of the Welsh Bards (1784).

Lockdown Reflections on Grey

foto©robcullen16052021.

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, and slow grey traffic passes.

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

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

They never looked at me, they never waved, 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 two

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 fortnight,

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 are 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 vaccine be found for depression and mental health?

©robcullen16012021.

Mental Helath and Covid Lockdowns an iceberg shadowing its Titanic.
foto©robcullen16052021.

My Right Hand

foto©fionacullen31032021

my right hand

my right hand holds the towel tenderly stroking dry

the pacemaker tucked neatly in under bulging skin

a pouch the surgeon made while I watched the film

the day before wires were pushed from my groin

through the aorta with a camera filming inside me

guided to my heart I watched its voyage on the screen

above my head — then the announcement made

all arteries and veins clear — “vena amoris”

I remember wedding rings on the heart finger

my right hand holds the black as night coffee

sticky as thick molasses swirling in the cup

my right hand holds the spoon, lifts the cup

my right hand holds the knife blade holds the axe

guides the spade drives the steel into the soil

holds the pencil strokes the dog dries the dog

my right hand picks up the phone, opens the front door

touches my mother’s face a foto taken one Christmas day

my right hand turns the key starts the ignition starts the car

my right hand holds your waist cups your breast feels your heart

fills another cup with coffee holds it out for you feels your warmth

my right hand rubs tears from my eyes rubs tears from your eyes

gently smooths your cheek this is the hand that has a tremor

left overs from car crash PTSD flash backs night sweats nightmares

today it stopped — yesterday my right hand didn’t shake at all

my right hand feels the smile on my face the grin feeling the emptiness

of another shielded day my right hand feels the warmth of the earth

my right hand an honest hand wrinkled with age with some scars

some used to be blue with coal dust, a silver scimitar on my right thumb

from an accident in the street when the bike skidded overturned

the day after the coal had been delivered to Mrs. Jones No 9

the fading blue has gone only the memory remains unchanged

may be its healing nerve ends reconnecting forgetting editing out

my right hand raised in a wave as I watch each child leave after a stay

drive away a too short visit close the door on a cold day my right hand

holds you holds your look of sadness holds you tight as I watch tears

fall for each child’s leaving feel you come into my arms my right hand holds you.

this is my right hand that has not shaken another right hand in greeting

for a year this right hand will open the door shake a strangers hand once more

this right hand waiting to be shaken and shaken again by someone else

the right hand of a friend, someone close, someone else — long absent

this right hand holds a voice on the phone perhaps a ghost on a screen

this right hand is waiting to be held feel alive to hold the warmth of someone

else

©robcullen10052021

foto©fionacullen31032021