Gillian Byrom-Smith — The Poetry Village

Present Time A story, a nightmare, a tale; make believe. Cities tumble and fall, fire consumes forests, water drowns fields; rot sets in.

Gillian Byrom-Smith — The Poetry Village

Uncertain times

Rob CullenMar 9

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Uncertain times.

I see only forgotten men
Living in places
With once famous names
I hear only words,
Of tales and deeds,
Of days of women and men,
Long since forgtten
Long since dead.

And in these times of uncertainty,
People live surrounded
By purposeless decline.
A landscape of waste,
And those twisted lines,
Of once white shone steel,
Polished by the unce\asing grind
Of the turning wheel,
That now lie hidden by elder.
And gathering the dirt brown stain
Of rust and disuse,
Map out the death struggle
Of this dark place,
And in this uncertainty people live.
Writhing in its decay
Its history ensnares
The withering and hopeless present.
But its people refuse to cry out.
Anger has been replaced,
By that silence of regret,
That pitiless lament,
Of resignation and acceptance.
Some say it is our age,
As if we were born in other times
And others days,
Or as if this turmoil,
And unceasing uncertainty,
Was of our own making.

It has taken one hundred years
To silence and forget,
To carve away with such precision.
One hundred long hard years,
To isolate those memories,
To purge our dreams,
And cut with all the accuracy
Of liquid golden steel,
The misery of generations,
The torments of our people,
Of the years of our childhood,
And before.
We can do nothing.
We can say nothing.
We are not listened to.
This is the song of our people,
We suffer, we suffer,
We have cried too much,
We have cried much too long
And we have become lost.
But do not stir us,
For we are dark dogs,

We are shadow dogs,
We sleep in motionless terror.
Do not speak to our hearts
Of indignities, of suffering.
Do not kindle our hatred.
Do not evoke words to spur,
Our slumbering emotions.
We sleep, we sleep.


In Silence

That strange silence
When did it first occur?
Were there no witnesses?
Did no one see its coming?
Had it been something gradual?
Something that had begun
Without our knowing.
Or with that abruptness,
That quickness of the blade,
That cuts and severs,
And life without knowing,
Without recognizing its own going,
Seeps silently away.

That strange silence
When did it first occur?
Were our eyes turned away?
Our intelligence caught
By other curious happenings.
Was it that? Simply
A distraction of sorts.
Or was it something
That we secretly welcomed?
And now if there are regrets
It’s too late, much too late.
All that has been is no longer,
All that may have been,
Is now silent and forgotten.

Who will remember?
Or will it become,
A few pages here and there,
Of names and muttered words?
Some faint remembrances?
That strange vision
Of people blackened,
Standing in cobbled streets,
Faces turned towards camera,
Their eyes watching,
Looking but seeing nothing.
And we see nothing of them.
Their world, our past,
A fleeting glance caught
On the papers gloss.
And in this hour I ask –
Is that all that remains?
That strange silence.


Of words and truth.

Like grasses bundled
And withered in storm
We are blown helplessly
And not a word is spoken.
Who sings the authentic song?
Who speaks the words of truth?
Who stands for me and mine?
Who looks at what we see?
Who hears what we hear?
Who breathes the air we breathe?
Who sees what is right and wrong?
Who speaks for me and mine?
Who sings the authentic song?
Where are our heroes and poets now?


This poem was written during 1984 and was published in my first poetry collection “Uncertain Times” 2016. It is very much a poem of its time and represents the mix of defiance and despair.

In 1984 Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher decided to break the strength of the National Mine Workers after it took strike action to defend against mine closures. The government had foreseen in advance the possibility of a strike by the Miners and stockpiled vast quantities of coal reserves, it also mobilized the Police and Army who were involved in violent confrontations when miners tried to stop coal movements. In the end the government broke the strike, subsequently mines across Wales and the UK were closed down just as the Miners Union had predicted, and mining communities were devastated by largescale unemployment without any meaningful government support. The communities were overwhelmed by crime and drug misuse. There is little doubt that bringing coal mining to an end in the UK was done primarily to promote North Sea Gas and Oil.

The communities in the South Wales valleys survived, much changed, and after a long period of uncertainty, are thriving.

The photograph of the Naval Colliery, Penygraig, Rhondda was taken in 1970 while I was at Art School.Resistance Poetry

Verse as Commentary

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.

Resistance Poetry

Resistance Poetry

Verse as Commentary

The Storm song of the Hawthorn tree

Rob Cullen Mar 8

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Storm song of the Hawthorn

Gales come and gales blow
Its winter out on the hill
Gales come and gales go

Streams and rivers filled
The land flooded and full
Rainwater has nowhere to flow

And we hope for the lull
But still the storms blow.

And the Hawthorn still sings
Mankind you are killing Earth.

foto©robcullen2016Resistance Poetry

Verse as Commentary

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.

Resistance Poetry

Resistance Poetry

Verse as Commentary


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Out on the mountain wind lifted and the rain swept in
from the Severn Channel — I feared I’d be caught
walking peat boggy ground on the old Miskin Estate
I stood watching the rain filled white grey shroud
smear the dim domed lower hills and pass me by

I found myself listening out there to the wind blow
soughing its sighs through the conifer woods remnants,
blasted and flattened by the New Year gale that felled
the woodlands on the hill tops, the frosted high slopes

and in the morning after it looked as if a war had been fought
while we slept off the New Year party in the quiet of the hills lee.
after walking through the forests desolation I was reminded
of the bleakest Paul Nash painting, those shattered Ypres trees
and now fifteen years later the trees lie still jumbled and broken
the walls of the estate built to enclose common land
have fallen too and are now used in places to make paths
where the land is wet and poached by cattle hooves.

But although these long dry stone walls have tumbled
we have different kinds of walls to enclose us today,
the relentless addictive industrialised consumerism
that inflicts its message from the first day of a child’s birth
you need, you want and you will never get enough.

©2020robcullenResistance Poetry

Verse as Commentary

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.

Resistance Poetry

Resistance Poetry

Verse as Commentary

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?



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