What do we say to our children?

What did you do daddy?

when the butchers

knocked at the door

sharpening their knives

to cut with their smiles

What did you do daddy?

 

What did you do daddy?

when the thieves

in grey striped suits

sat at the cabinet table

ready to cut with their knives.

What did you do daddy?

 

What did you do daddy?

when the nurses and doctors

worked too many hours

and had no more time

to look after us or you.

What did you do daddy?

 

What did you do daddy?

when all the teachers

working too many hours

had no more time

to teach your children.

What did you do daddy?

 

What did you do daddy?

when all those liars

with their crocodile smiles

did what they did

and wanted to do anyway.

What did you do daddy?

 

What did you do daddy?

When all the taxes you paid

bank-rolled the bankers,

the liars who thieved our Services

and skinned them to the bone

What did you do daddy?

 

What will you do daddy?

Now the services are gone

and the rich get richer

and the poor get sicker

and no one’s listening to you.

What will you do now daddy?

 

What will you do daddy?

When Covid-19

Is killing the old and the young

And all the others in between

And the nurses and doctors

Have no protective kit

Have no masks to shield them

And there’s no tests

Cos everythings run to the ground

Are you clapping daddy?

What are you clapping for?

 

©robcullen2020

First published in Rob Cullen’s collection “Uncertain Times” 2016 with update.

The year of magical thinking…

Rereading a review by Hilary Mantel of CS Lewis’s writing on grief – Guardian Saturday 24th December 2014 I came across a quote from Joan Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking…which led me to another…

“This is my attempt to make sense of the period that followed, weeks and then months that cut loose any fixed idea I had ever had about death, about illness, about probability and luck, about good fortune and bad, about marriage and children and memory, about grief, about the ways in which people do and do not deal with the fact that life ends, about the shallowness of sanity, about life itself. I have been a writer my entire life. As a writer, even as a child, long before what I wrote began to be published, I developed a sense that meaning itself was resident in the rhythms of words and sentences and paragraphs, a technique for withholding whatever it was I thought or believed behind an increasingly impenetrable polish. The way I write is who I am, or have become, yet this is a case in which I wish I had instead of words and their rhythms a cutting room, equipped with an Avid, a digital editing system on which I could touch a key and collapse the sequence of time, show you simultaneously all the frames of memory that come to me now, let you pick the takes, the marginally different expressions, the variant readings of the same lines. This is a case in which I need more than words to find the meaning. This is a case in which I need whatever it is I think or believe to be penetrable, if only for myself.”

― Joan Didion, The Year of Magical Thinking

Paola Deffendi is still waiting.

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Paola Deffendi is still waiting.

 

Paola Deffendi is waiting.

Giulio Regeni her son lies buried under a line of cypress trees.

her son’s gravestone is just a plain marble slab.

unadorned except for flowers, devotional candles and a small photograph

his face open and earnest.

 

Paola Deffendi is waiting.

‘It’s all over the happiness of our family was so short.’’

she waits for justice to be done and for truth to be told.

Veritas for Giulio Regeni.

and love will triumph, love for a child will not be out done.

his face open and earnest.

 

Paola Deffendi is waiting.

Nagy said – ‘‘We will just have to wait. Inshallah, something will come of it.’’

And the secrecy of darkness enfolds always playing for time,

hoping people will forget, and we and the world will stop watching.

and Giulio Regeni lies buried under a line of cypress trees

his gravestone a plain marble slab.

 

Paola Deffendi is waiting.

for the real truth and not the convenient truth to be revealed

those at the top In Egypt know – they hide secrets in the darkness of their hearts

Giulio Regini’s broken and violated body was left propped up.

Waiting to be found. But they’d found it already

It was in plain view. And they knew, they knew.

 

Paola Deffendi is waiting.

A mother honours the child she brought into this world,

the son she loved and watched as any mother would.

A child who grew into manhood with brilliance and compassion,

and the intense inquisitiveness that showed his humanity,

and now Giulio Regeni lies buried under a line of cypress trees.

 

 

“But we will not stop until we find an answer. We owe it to his mother.”

 

©RobCullen2017

Remembering Aberfan

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Bitter limp fruit

 

Imagine fishermen labouring in a heavy swell,

pulling in the trawl to find silver bitter limp fruit,

entwined in the mesh of drip green nets,

and seeing the dead eyed souls of their own young children.

And we stay silent for our history is never told,

silenced from the hour, the days, and the years,

for we are edited out of the hours of our time.

 

Imagine coal miners hollowing out the seams,

men stripping coal a mile and more underground,

and the hooters above the darkness call them away,

to be brought up into blink white light to see the black tip,

the harvest of their toils washed into the village,

spewed over the school where small children,

once sang hymns and were supposed to be safe.

And we stay silent for our history is never told,

silenced from the hour, the days, and the years,

for we are edited out of the hours of our time.

 

Imagine the trail of letters, written foretelling concerns,

the dead nerved fears that a disaster would occur,

and the NCB replied, not days, not months but years later.

And on a grey fog filled October day, after weeks of rain,

a small children’s school and a day of devastation,

exactly in the manner and the way foretold.

And imagine if no one was held to account,

and those families told – make the slag heap safe yourselves,

from the proceeds raised for the disaster fund.

And we stay silent – for our history is never told,

silenced from the hours, the days, and the years,

for we are edited out of the hours of our times.

 

Imagine the miner, the father, the brother, the son,

looking out at the sprawl of waste they’d dug.

Imagine the mother, the sister, the daughter,

looking out at the grey listlessness of another day.

Of the silent keening, the numbed grieving,

of the impossibility of using words to describe.

And we stay silent for our history is never told,

silenced from the hours, the days, and the years,

for we are edited out of the hour of our times.

 

Imagine the mothers bringing up children,

the happiness and hopes for the future.

Imagine the sisters who stayed off school.

Imagine the brothers too slow and were late.

Imagine the vacuum where a life had been once.

Imagine a young life where a vacuum is now.

 

And we have been silenced, our history just words,

and our future is silent and will never be told.

Silenced from this hour, silenced from all the days and more.

Silenced from this, these years, silenced from all that could have been.

 

 

The Aberfan Tribunal found that repeated warnings about the dangerous condition of the tip had been ignored, and that colliery engineers at all levels had concentrated only on conditions underground. In one passage, the Report noted:

“We found that many witnesses … had been oblivious of what lay before their eyes. It did not enter their consciousness. They were like moles being asked about the habits of birds.”

In the House of Commons debate on the Inquiry Report it was asserted by the Government, on the advice of the NCB and supported by comments in the Tribunal report, that the remaining tips above Aberfan were not dangerous and did not warrant removal, estimated by the Tribunal to cost £3m, but merely required landscaping – a much cheaper option.

The government made a grant of £200,000 to the NCB towards the cost of removing the tips, and under “intolerable pressure” from the government, the Trustees of the Disaster Fund agreed to contribute £150,000.

No NCB staff were ever demoted, sacked or prosecuted as a consequence of the Aberfan disaster or of evidence given to the Inquiry.

 

©robcullenoctober2016

Published RedPoets2019

Cae’r Blaidd or ‘field of the wolf’.

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Cae’r Blaidd or ‘field of the wolf’.

 

The last wolf died in this place

but the hour of the wolf remains

and the wolves call for us, call for you

calling haunting us with their calling

calling for us over and over again

 

It is the time when we cross over

as some people say of the passing away

in the early hours when coldness

an imperceptible drop in temperature

loosens our will, loosens our grip on life

and the wolf crosses with us too

it has nowhere else to go after all.

 

A time we no longer speak of

the easing of souls young and old

the hour of the wolf remains taboo.

 

It is a way with our family at this time

that we sit in vigil, a candle burning

talk of remembrance, of memories

of life and the sadness of leaving.

But whatever we say the wolf remains

at the door until our time comes too.

 

And the wolf patiently waits for the hour,

waits at the door to call as it must do.

 

 

Published in The Learned Pig 2017

©robcullencelfypridd19