Colour theory/Or what I learned in Art School

Blackness is not a colour foto©robcullen24042013

Colour theory/Or what I learned in Art School

Colour theory

black is not a colour

nor is white

though some whites think

they are whiter than white

those whiter than white whites

lets call them the man

think black is a colour

for them colour theory does not apply

what a surprise is in store

if they open their eyes

open their minds

and let the sunlight in

black is not a colour

any rainbow lays down the rules

black is not a colour

nor is white


Blackness is not a colour foto©robcullen24042013

I am my own silence

foto credit South Wales Echo

I am my own silence

Silences vacancies empty spaces

lemons yoghurt spuds


The silence of the middle class again

think you can close the door

you are deluded


What is the message?

This message of silence

What are you trying to say?

What are you trying to tell me?

With your silences.

Your non replies.

Is it that I haven’t lived

the times I’ve worked through

driving past lorries filled with coal

convoys of lorries on the motorways

filling up the power stations stores

to break the miner’s strike

to break a community

to break a people

seeing strikers in the cells

and expected to collude

with the depravity of the middle class

punishment your silences again and again


Is that your message?

I haven’t raised children?

I haven’t saved children?

nothing I’ve seen

nothing I’ve touched

nothing I’ve smelt

actually happened

means anything

in this world of everyday pain

is that your message?

Speaking on behalf of miners wives

in the Fines Enforcement Debtors Court

before those pompous magistrates

in their ties and suits living in piano rows*

stopping the wives going to prison

for non payment of a fucking TV licence

show some fucking respect

not your silence hiding the fact

you have nothing to say

That was then this is now

food banks are empty

food banks keep running out

children go to school hungry

empty hungry empty hungry

that was then this is now

sixth wealthiest nation

empire gone going down

moving the deck chairs around

while Nero’s violin plays a stringent tune

children starving empty hungry

that was then this is now

sliced bread bags of potatoes

pasta rice tomatoes bags of this

bags of that — tins of beans tins tins

anything tinned bags of sugar

anything you can give anything at all

big little or small big little or small


That was then this is now

Global Britain rules the waves

Global Britain rules Covid too

Just remember killers take many shapes

even assassins read poetry

some read ancient Greek

mass killers enjoy a good tune

some love jazz and dance about

Sergei Rachmaninoff knew a thing or two

I’ve lived I’m still here

you can’t own my silence

in this world of everyday pain




I’ve lived I’m still here

you can’t own my silence

in this world of everyday pain.


Footnote: piano rows* houses of skilled working class and lower working class who had pianos in their front room for a child to practice.


Number fourteen


Number fourteen

Darkness comes darkness goes then there’s grey

sometimes some people can dance through darkness

Some of the time some people hide in the darkness

apparently- there’s no light to look into the darkness

A boy dances to make the woman his mother smile

she is lost in the darkness he wants her to laugh or dance sometimes

do anything to see her smile a boy dances for the woman

who closes the door the door closes darkness closes in

The woman re-appears fully dressed shopping bag in hand

closes the door says I won’t be long he sits on the bottom stair

looking at the frosted glass window of the bottle green door listening

a glass spider hangs from a thread in the glass window staring

The old house was burned down exactly a year after we moved out

to another house up the hill exactly a year since the neighbour

from hell moved in next door with her drunken antics, and theatrics

late night dramas, shouting and swearing anytime the woman

my mother hung clothes on the wash line on a sunny day

anytime she left the house to catch a bus to shop in town

she my mother closed the door and stayed in the darkness

she my mother trapped left the house for as long as she could

Scorched and smoking the house of my childhood

the place of my memories boarded and smouldering

an Angels feathers falling



Standing With Clouds/Nights Were Light Days Long


Nights were light, nights were long
back when the sun held on to all the skies
unwilling to sink below mountains dark lines
but darkness came all the same as it was bound to do
each long day, as it must do each and every night
when we were young and brightness filled our eyes

Standing with clouds
it was a time of childhood a time of innocence
of days walking hillsides and high mountains
there was no other time there was no other place.


When did the beginning start to commence?
When did the beginning alter its course change stop?
When did the beginning of a story forget itself?

I stand here in the highest place
when we were young it was a time
when our dreams were golden
your star brightened night skies
your silence your absence now is a hurt
I choose not to bear.

Old names have been deleted
a constant pasting over of history
that endless creep
the landscape has lost a sense of itself
blackened elder dip tipped branches bow into the rivers sweep
floodwaters adorned stems with fluttering plastic waste
brought from upriver towns to befoul ocean seas.


On the black grey slabs of Twyn Bryn y Beddau*
we played the old games of hunt and seek
watched from rushes deep channelled
tunnelled walls of the old graves.

And the walled field
Ffynon yr saith erw*
remains silent
while processions of white
walk the hill
to the statue of Mair*.

And the blood field of Brithweunydd*
the death place of a prince.




  • Twyn Bryn y Beddau* means Hill of the Graves which in this case are megalithic ‘Round Barrows’
  • Mair* means Mary as in mother of Jesus — in this case, relates to the Statue of St Mary which was constructed in the early 1950s to commemorate the miracle of Mary and the be-jewelled and gold plated statue which was stolen by Oliver Cromwell. The original statue marked the place of a Miracle and was on the pilgrim route from Canterbury Cathedral to St David’s Cathedral.
  • Ffynon yr saith erw* means well of the six graves not in this case ‘Round Barrows’.
  • Brithweunydd* means stone littered or speckled place…

The late Oliver Rackham, world-famous authority on Trees and much more — in his authoritative book “The history of the Countryside” describe the South Wales plateau as an intact “funerary landscape” that had largely escaped the ravages of the Industrial Age. This landscape is the place I played and spent so much of my time as a child and teenager. It is the place where I live and still walk and write about.


Of course truth must be written

in a struggle witth untruth

and it cannot be general, elevated, ambiguous.

For to be general, elevated, ambiguous

is precisely the nature of untruth.

Bertholt Brecht.

From the frontispiece of the The Broken House:Growing up under Hitler.

by Horst Kruger.

Ten White Birds Fly Out of the Darkness


Ten White Birds Fly Out of the Darkness

Today the dream palace is being destroyed
the place of dreams is being knocked down
it was a palace where dreams were made
love kindled love sparkled in the darkness

A dream palace with names that changed and changed again
Royal Clarence Theatre, New Theatre, County Cinema, Bingo
one hundred and thirty-one years it took to destroy
the palace of dreams with bulldozers and cranes

Ten white birds fly out of the darkness
Fly and fly and keep on flying out of the darkness

It was a place of meetings, of sharings, of kissing
of arranging, of touching, of feeling, you know what I mean
it was the only way people saw the world outside
freedom but not free of the colonial sneer national anthem

It was the place to go on a Friday or Saturday night
a place to hide out of the rain there was a lot of rain about
a place to laugh a place to sigh to cry a place to cheer
when the bad guy dies, a place for newsreels of the war

Ten white birds fly out of the darkness
fly and fly and keep on flying out of the darkness

It was the place your father’s cousin, Ros, trod the boards
before she went on to play with Lawrence and Norman
with all those other famous names of stage and screen
now she’s gone too, a small funeral in a covid year.

Ten white birds fly out of the darkness
fly and fly and keep flying now they’re gone too.

The rows of seats lookout, keep staring out, keep waiting
the screen is gone, the cascading curtain someone’s memory,
the proscenium arch bricks and rubble, the seats lookout
the seats look on, tomorrow they’ll be gone, the seats look on.

Ten white birds fly out of the darkness
gone gone gone. The ten white birds are gone.


Royal Clarence Theatre with Clarence Public House to the front foto credit non-attributable
Royal Clarence Hotel from High Street credit rhonddacynontafflibraryservices

The Dying Bullfinch


A Bulfinch pillar box red caught my eye
fluttering helpless in the broad bean rows

took to my open held out hand with no fight left
opening its beak to weakly peck its only sign
of resistance and with one last gasp took flight
into the heaped bush where the Sparrow flock
goes crazy at the intruder’s sorrowful mistake.

And so we shroud ourselves in Pilate’s cloak
wash our hands of the stain of all responsibility
and look out on this world with all the disdain
the falsely blamed feel and what’s left — silence.




May trees


May trees

May trees are in flower again

it was this time last year

the news came of your passing

When the May flower white in the woodland

reminds me of the poem you wrote

it was about this time we heard too

so many people were dying from Covid

I was recovering, shielded and frightened

I didn’t see anyone for nine months

living here out on the country road

on a hill surrounded by Oakwood

Shopping was brought to the door

the man always asked if I was well

he kept his distance the boxes left

two metres away he always looked worried

May trees are in bloom again

so I think of your sudden death at this time

back then I was going over your work

while it rained through the night

I listened to its hiss sound on the skylight

a beautiful sound to fall to sleep to.



Freedom for my fellow countrymen


Freedom for my fellow countrymen

Remembering that Ireland only became a Republic in 1948,

only then, when the English Governor vacated his seat,

was Ireland able to focus itself on what really mattered.

When I was a small child “going home” like all children travelling

on the Irish ferries,— cattle boats my older sister said —

we became smugglers, food wrapped under our coats.

Ireland was struggling, and we played our small part

to help our families through bitterly hard times,

for England did not entirely let go its grasping hold.

It is a lesson to be remembered as we consider

Wales’ future as a people and a new country.

England will not be a comfort in our time of need.

Here we are a disordered people

Living in a disordered land,

Living in disordered times.

And this disorder is from others lies.

Let’s go about changing all that.

In this new land, this new Wales,

let’s have done with English politicians

parachuting in, parading themselves,

spinning their Brexit lies, a matter,

after all, that is no concern of ours.

It is a conspiracy inflicted by “little Englanders”

forever dreaming of lost causes,

old wars they are still fighting

and an Empire based on slavery

they crave and badly yearn to regain.

In this new land, let’s have an end to food banks.

If there’s a fight for freedom,

let there be a fight for decency.

There’s a fight for friendship too!

We must look beyond our borders now.

We must search other borders for our friends.

It is what Wales has always done.

We must hold others hands.

We must break out, break down

old prejudices, narrow conceits.

We must walk away, walk tall, walk again,

in this new land, this new Cymru.



Resistance Poetry

Verse as Commentary

THe rules are (must not be broken)


The rules are (must not be broken)

Rob CullenJun 3 · 2 min read

In the hospital wing

I follow signs to ACEU

two bays with welcome posters

on pale blue pastel walls

Every second seat

with red and white crosses

a hand written note explains

social distancing rules apply

Sitting on my own for a long time

I listen to nurses along the corridor

chattering in a distant office

I wait for my name to be called

An older woman is brought in

brushing past her feet touch mine

she apologises with a smile

pushed on a wheelchair and left

The nurses chatter becomes a drone

a distant low level thrum without end

a door closes and opens now and then

I read the posters over and over again

I wonder when they will miss us?

or when we will be missed?

Remembering my father saying once

rules are the words that bound us

my training said observe the behaviour

pay less attention to words, words are easy.