Athene Noctua

fotocredit robcullen 2010

Black boughed oaks, snow whitened hills

remnants of a great wood cut for Lydney’s iron mills.

I searched alone, a white haired boy,

catching unclean little owls with the slow sweep

of a green wool sweater.

I stared long into the eyes of Tawny owls

that in another age cured madness.

Jackdaws called my name from the river bank,

I saved them, from the waters rise,

 wrapped them clustered close, in a dark green jerkin,

fed them, and on another day let them go back to the wild.

I dreamt of eagles, hawks and falcons,

but Robins flew to my call, and sat still in my hand.


At St Anne’s long strand where Irelands east coast clamoured,

black Jack ravens clawed at my brow, trying to roost

in dusks gathering glower, and the tides rush

while I stood listening to the Atlantic rollers roar,

and the weeping sigh of the one I loved.


Walking with water

foto credit Rob Cullen route of the Cardiiff-Merthyr Tydfil canal covered over but the water still moves either below or above ground.

Jacques Benveniste believed water retained on a molecular level a memory that triggers antibodies. His hypothesis remains unproven. But his conviction stayed firm until his end came.

When I was a child I believed God lived in the skies.

it was the only way God could see everything

God was everywhere his proximity was frightening

I walked the mountains searching endlessly

I know I wasn’t alone in these beliefs

I’ve written fifty years and a day, written as they say

without knowing whether my words were listened to

so I walk these mountains listening to your words

I walk old pathways following mountain trails

I sing my words I sing my song to silence.

I reflect on our indifference

to the way we walk on water

we float on strata of sandstone

once beaches and layered memory

water filters and holds

breaching the surface

springs and dark pools.

And I walk endlessly

on the draining land

beneath my feet

examining the new

examining the past

walking with water

walking with love.

Erw Beddau*

has been desecrated

a place of burial

long forgotten by men

it was still there

when I was a child

amongst the panorama

of the plateaus uplands.

From those heights today

I cast an eye to the valley slopes

and see in the distance

where Errw Beddau* had once lain.

The spring, the well,

it’s clooty* tree remain.

It was said of the well

which stood

in that funerary landscape

of twenty five burial mounds

its spring water cured

ailments of the eye.

In this age of blindness

I sense an irony here.


If I could only see it now.

I tasted its spring water

many times long ago

when I was young

walking winding trails

in the steepness of the day

Erw Beddau*

the acre of untouched graves

remains a story hidden.

And I cross the silence

of the high slopes


parish roads and bridle paths

and when these end

the intricate web of trails

of hefted sheep

mapping out


the lands contour.

Do we mould the landscape?

Or has it formed us?

Walking with water.

Walking with love.

When I was a child I believed God lived in the skies

I walked the mountains searching endlessly

I wasn’t alone in those beliefs

I’ve written fifty years and a day, written as they say

without knowing whether my words have been listened to

so I walk these mountains still listening to your words

words and teachings no longer listened to

I walk mountain trails following old pathways

I sing my words I sing my song to silence

Walking with water.

Walking with love.

foto credit Rob Cullen – Oak woodland and a stream running through.

Dedicated to my daughter Beth Cullen who walks with water, walks with love – who achieved and learned so much in Ethiopia with the Karrayyuu pastoralist community and our shared love of past essential knowledge!

*Errw Beddau – Welsh for an acre of graves

*clooty – the Hawthorn tree found by the side of holy and wells from the old beliefs and strips of cloth left as ovations and wishes – and still practiced by people.


Day in the garden

Spent all day in the garden…walked to the far end of the Orchard throwing sticks with yon dog …our beautiful Collie…all blue skies and sunshine … and sitting there my writing head clicked on again! And amongst the line of Rhubarb a mystery…a clump of very beautiful purple Crocus! How did they get there?

fotocredit rob cullen 13032022.

Coronation Day 2nd June 1953

Photocredit robcullen1969

Coronation Day 2nd June 1953

From the bench on the street corner one legged Jack sits watching the scene

pennants and bunting draped ready for celebrations, the crowning of a queen.

Jailed for killing a sheep to feed half-starved kids in the far away depression days

Jack remembered the struggle to survive and the children dying in those ways.

On the tree lined flowering street a white haired boy tried and failed always

when the showering confetti of petals slowly made it their time to fall too.

Red white and pink spring colours in a time of khaki, navy blues, and greys

the white haired boy walked kicking along the stony road a blue tin zinc ball

Battered and dented dull on each of its three sides from so many tries

to make it fly, it was in those days with long hours they called peace.

Thundering and lightning crackled without warning in clear blue skies

the silenced old gods and wise men left only indentations, remembrances

Of psalms and words in the places they’d once stood in so many guises.

In the tall aspen trees above the school yard Jackdaws turned into blackness

No longer offering advice to the boy standing in silence on a stone edged street.

He wandered listening to hammering hard voices in those endless days of friction.

It was a time of remembrances of yearning for memories, idylls and those years

before the great fracturing, when men stared too long into the crematoria’s fire.

Of the man-made hell when God looked away from supplications, turned deaf ears

to the prayers of beseechment from the lost, the implorations for intervention

For salvation. And only silence reigned. The old Kings head stared one eyed

on silver sixpences and farthings but he was dead and the Christmas tree lights

Fixed to the windows and doorways ready for the street party rationing allowed

And all those old songs – knees up mother brown, oh knees up mother brown,

They pushed the damper in and they pulled the damper out and the smoke went up

And she’ll be coming round the mountain will be sung again and sung again.

It was a time of remembering past times, it was a time for forgetting times too,

there was hope for the future, for a better life that so many had fought and died for.

But spin the gaudy worn tin carousel sixty four years or more forward and see

a future of food banks feeding working poor kids in the high streets of ghost towns

Where charity shops fill every other door and the worn out junkies haunt the parade

and we turn our backs too as so many lives are stolen away before our very eyes.

So our class celebrates the Jubilee of a queen and our impoverishment

Relinquishing, forgetting what life, poverty and struggle was like in those days.

These days.

My names Jack.

What’s yours?


From a few years ago…previously published in Red Poets….