Ten White Birds Fly Out of the Darkness

foto©robcullen02072021

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.

©robcullen02072021

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

foto©fionacullen5102020

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.

Silence…

©robcullen14062021

foto©fionacullen5102020

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).

Lockdown Reflections on Grey

foto©robcullen16052021.

Lockdown Reflections on Grey

Waves of lines, white tides, rollers moving,

Breaking on another shore in another time,

Waves rolling in silence, slow as mercury,

Silver, shimmering, there is no sun in this sky.

It is a panorama without feature, or horizon,

I can fix my gaze outward – it is fixed anyway,

Sunlight moves across the unmoving vista,

Unchangeable, and slow grey traffic passes.

The windows of people’s houses have the blinds drawn,

Now and then, I used to see someone look out of their window,

They never looked at me, they never waved, made any sign,

I stopped seeing people, one day there was no one to see.

I used to see people walk past, old couples mostly

They became fewer, sometimes ones, rarely two

The people walked very slowly. Walking so slowly

It was like watching someone move in slow motion.

There are no people walking past – it becomes dark,

And the houses opposite don’t show their lights,

The supermarket truck used to deliver every week,

I’d see the same men, they’d ask how I am,

The deliveries changed to just once a fortnight,

The drivers just leave the boxes outside the door.

A woman used to come out of her house and stand

Waiting for the bus to go into town, she stopped

Standing at the bus stop. The bus stopped coming one day

Something felt wrong it was because the bus never came.

There are always ambulance sirens, blaring night and day,

Blue lights flashing, when they pass the house, they are gone

I take no notice now it is constant they will stop one day

Outside this house to take me and I will be gone too.

Where are the people who believed in miracles? Why are they quiet?

People in the concentration camps asked – Where is god?

They announced there are vaccinations coming for everyone,

They made it sound as if our scientists had performed a miracle,

they sounded like they believed a miracle had happened,

could a vaccine be found for depression and mental health?

©robcullen16012021.

Mental Helath and Covid Lockdowns an iceberg shadowing its Titanic.
foto©robcullen16052021.

My Right Hand

foto©fionacullen31032021

my right hand

my right hand holds the towel tenderly stroking dry

the pacemaker tucked neatly in under bulging skin

a pouch the surgeon made while I watched the film

the day before wires were pushed from my groin

through the aorta with a camera filming inside me

guided to my heart I watched its voyage on the screen

above my head — then the announcement made

all arteries and veins clear — “vena amoris”

I remember wedding rings on the heart finger

my right hand holds the black as night coffee

sticky as thick molasses swirling in the cup

my right hand holds the spoon, lifts the cup

my right hand holds the knife blade holds the axe

guides the spade drives the steel into the soil

holds the pencil strokes the dog dries the dog

my right hand picks up the phone, opens the front door

touches my mother’s face a foto taken one Christmas day

my right hand turns the key starts the ignition starts the car

my right hand holds your waist cups your breast feels your heart

fills another cup with coffee holds it out for you feels your warmth

my right hand rubs tears from my eyes rubs tears from your eyes

gently smooths your cheek this is the hand that has a tremor

left overs from car crash PTSD flash backs night sweats nightmares

today it stopped — yesterday my right hand didn’t shake at all

my right hand feels the smile on my face the grin feeling the emptiness

of another shielded day my right hand feels the warmth of the earth

my right hand an honest hand wrinkled with age with some scars

some used to be blue with coal dust, a silver scimitar on my right thumb

from an accident in the street when the bike skidded overturned

the day after the coal had been delivered to Mrs. Jones No 9

the fading blue has gone only the memory remains unchanged

may be its healing nerve ends reconnecting forgetting editing out

my right hand raised in a wave as I watch each child leave after a stay

drive away a too short visit close the door on a cold day my right hand

holds you holds your look of sadness holds you tight as I watch tears

fall for each child’s leaving feel you come into my arms my right hand holds you.

this is my right hand that has not shaken another right hand in greeting

for a year this right hand will open the door shake a strangers hand once more

this right hand waiting to be shaken and shaken again by someone else

the right hand of a friend, someone close, someone else — long absent

this right hand holds a voice on the phone perhaps a ghost on a screen

this right hand is waiting to be held feel alive to hold the warmth of someone

else

©robcullen10052021

foto©fionacullen31032021

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