May trees

©fotorobcullen02062021

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.

©robcullen02062021

©fotorobcullen02062021

Freedom for my fellow countrymen

foto©robcullen02022016.

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.

©robcullen01062021

foto©robcullen02022016.

Resistance Poetry

Verse as Commentary

THe rules are (must not be broken)

foto©robcullen19012015

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.

©robcullen25052021.

foto©robcullen19052015

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).

The time for music*

fotocredit picture alliance/CPA Media/Wagner

This is the right time for music

the dead are carried in

a child wrapped in a shawl

this is the right time for music

There is the right time for music

the drone of the pipes begin

a keening cry a prayer a hymn

this is the right time for music

This is the right time for music

a plea for mercy for forgiveness

the burial place sought and dug

a child wrapped in a shawl

this is the right time for music

©robcullen25042021

*A poem in response to Dave Rendle’s poetic response to the Armenian Genocide — “No time for music”.

foto credit unattributable

The New Emptiness.

foto©robcullen010620

The New Emptiness

And I also know, that all through this land right now

People are dying. And so many will be left to cope

with the harshness of sudden loss.

Of being left alone. And all that it brings.

As if that isn’t enough. I know too that tomorrow,

I’ll walk out in the rain, make my way through

shining green Hawthorn copses,

heavily festooned with white bloom and I’ll think of you then.

27th April 2020

©robcullen010620

“The Decree of Ne Temerre.*”

“Under the stone eyes of Mary*”. foto©robcullen110321

“The Decree of Ne Temerre.*”

There is a photograph taken at People’s Park,

my mother, father and sister,

standing in front of the open gates,

I am a child in my mother’s arms.

An uncle had died of TB,

a particularly virulent strain,

his brother he’d infected was in Dublin,

in a TB ward never to return.

His brother had come home,

when the war was done,

his lungs carried the strain,

one brother infected by his brother.

There was no freedom here,

a grandmother of one faith,

married to a grandfather,

of the state recognised religion.

But the freedom was of love,

the way they joshed and laughed,

cocking a snook at cruelties conventions,

in dangerous times for either.

Their love persevered,

in spite of the disconnection,

families estranged, rejection,

and so a lesson was learned.

The love of a church to murder children,

with its smiles, those killing smiles,

the freedom of a church to traffic children,

with closed eyes and the endless miles of lies,

the love of a church to brutalise,

young, single mothers, with nowhere to turn.

The freedom of a church to hide,

its crimes and the deaths of small children.

And in their black clothed piety,

set themselves above all others,

absolve themselves of guilt,

set themselves above Christs teachings.

There was no freedom here,

we watched with open eyes.

©robcullen110321

“Under the stone eyes of Mary*”. foto©robcullen110321
  • Enunciated in 1907, Ne Temere requires that all children of a mixed marriage be brought up as Catholics. Before 1907 the tradition was that the boys in such a marriage would be brought up in the father’s faith and the girls in that of their mother.
  • Ne Temerre resulted in couples of both faiths being rejected by their families, particularly farming families, where the oldest boys who married a catholic would result in the Catholic children of that family inheriting the land. But the impact of Ne Temerre had much, much wider repercussions than this and its a subject that requires greater study. I would recommend “Different and the same” by Deirdre Nuttall.
  • Ne Temerre to all intents and purposes was a cleansing of Protestants from the Republic of Ireland.
  • “Under the stone eyes of Mary” is the title of a novel I am currently editing.
  • Being second generation Irish was confusing on many levels, returning “Home” raised further confusions.
  • Having a Catholic grandfather excluded by his farming family, and a Protestant grandmother excluded by her family provided a minefield when returning “Home”.

©robcullen110321