Looking down through dead water.

foto©robcullen3.12.2020.

Looking down through dead water.

On the ferry,

I liked sitting

on the edge,

looking down,

through dead water*.

I was returning

to a place

that was

and was not

my home.

I had never

been away,

returning

on the ferry,

looking down.

The River Suirs’

waters swirling,

muddy grey,

where it meets

the sea.

In the morning,

waiting, waiting.

Nearer now

to the quay,

where he’d be waiting,

with the brake

and horses,

a pair in hand.

Home again.

Looking down through dead water.

©robcullen06032021

foto©robcullen3.12.2020.

Dead water is the nautical term for a phenomenon which can occur when there is strong vertical density stratification due to salinity or temperature or both. It is common where a layer of fresh or brackish water rests on top of denser salt water, without the two layers mixing.

or water eddying beside a moving hull, especially directly astern.

or a part of a stream where there is a slack current.

©robcullen3.12.2020.Resistance Poetry

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.

The Decree of Ne Temerre

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

“The Decree of Ne Temerre.*”

Rob CullenMar 12 · 2 min read

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

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“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”.

©robcullen110321Resistance 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.

If I can’t be a poet I’ll be a poem instead

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foto©robcullen01032021

After a wait, the locked ward doors open,

I sit in the empty waiting room,

an orange with no reason, sits in the middle of a table,

black, blue, orange, yellow plastic chairs,

stare at one another in the electric glare,

the stopped wall clock doesn’t move.

Without warning you stand in front of me,

so we glide through open doors,

the outside doors, wedged with a spoon,

gapes, wordless, as we walk into fresh air.

Free from the overcooked swill stink,

that wafts and sticks to every corridor,

in the sunshine and bright blue skies,

you say it’s good to be alive.

On the bridge wall moss grows,

orange anthers glow in sun bright haze,

that arrests your mind, you smile,

and for the present you are back.

I asked you what poem you would be,

“Angelic” — you say without a moment’s thought,

and you recite your words unhindered,

line after line as you walk, through Birch trees,

in the golden light of a late afternoon

I walk you back to the spoon jammed door.

But what will tomorrow bring?

©robcullen01032021

There is talk now, and possibly a growing awareness of the impact of lock downs on children’s mental health and the wider population as a whole. Covid has brought about huge changes involving social isolation. But also brought about by a population fixatedly watching social media for some form of social interaction.

The risk of depression from dependence on social media was noted as a significant phenomena prior to covid. The onset of the social shutdown seems to have enhanced the impact of a reliance on artificial communication rather than “solid state” communication, skin on skin contact, touching and the reassurance that closeness with our own kind brings. In Wales there is a word “cwtch” which is that cradling in the arm of a baby in her mothers shawl, the comforting taking in of kith and kin at times of trauma. We yearn for that comforting touch, for the reassurance and soothing it brings at a time of need.

“Cwtch” is also that place under the stairs of a small house; a place of shelter when the bombs fell; a place to hide in those winter games when the weather outside was so bad, the incessant rain, children avoided going out: a place to store objects and things that would be useful later, you didn’t know what for, but they would, without doubt be useful one day, maybe.

“Cwtch” the feel of your mothers arms holding you tight, and sending that message- it’ll be alright.

“Cwtch”

©robcullen01032021

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

Following

Verse as Commentary

Last Spring

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Digging a trench, the spade,

brought out a blister on my hand.

My hands have softened over this past year,

I keep digging, the blister bleeds,

I see my blood, as if it is telling me,

you are no longer young,

your body is letting you down,

its letting me know.

A year ago last Spring,

my life was almost lost.

Doctors and nurses saved me,

and brought me back.

A small journey, of a kind,

a fast race through country lanes,

in an ambulance gurney,

the quiet rhythm of machines.

After a day working in the garden,

I look at my hand now,

showing a small blister,

nothing much, a scab is forming.

And I see my skin do what it must do,

what it always does

heal the wound, no matter how small.

I wish that my life could be the same.

Last Spring the horizon was clear.

Rob Cullen ©28.02.2021.

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foto ©robcullen28.02.2021.
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foto©robcullen16012016. The bandstand a place for teenage tryst, ghosts haunt the place now.

Here There Everywhere Gone

Rob CullenJan 17 · 4 min read

In this place there are empty shapes.

Spaces, moving. Here, there, everywhere.

Spaces moving among us, about us.

The shape of the missing,

we no longer hear, or see.

People we once knew, touched,

talked with, laughed with, cried to,

they were features of this place, this town,

they are missing now. Do we miss them?

Do we have a sense of the empty space they once filled?

Once, not so long ago, a month or so,

when I was engaged on my daily walk,

I would meet older people, some very old,

Late 80s, early nineties, uncomplaining,

walking chipper, a smile, a wave.

Once I found a friend on the new river bridge,

he began reminiscing, memories of the river,

of the sandbanks below the old bridge,

when GI’s threw coins onto the river bank,

they were leaving for D day — here, there, gone.

Coins they would never need again, useless.

He and his friends crossed the river,

on the stepping stones marking the old ford,

the stepping stones are gone, destroyed

by a flood prevention scheme — history gone.

Missing, like those GI’s, missing like my friends.

He mused, my friends are missing too.

A woman in her nineties, the oldest.

Fit as a fiddle, mind as bright as a pin,

sharp as a needle, and no side on her.

One day she talked about some clubs.

Places she went to with friends during the war.

Tin shed clubs, what would be called shabeens,

few of them standing today, she talked of the dancing,

her eyes sparkled, she was always laughing.

She walked her neighbour’s dog to the park.

It was something to do through winter,

something to keep her mind occupied.

The last time I saw her, she was running

through moving traffic, dragging the dog.

She disappeared then, no sight of her since.

One day I asked, is this like a game being played?

Like hide and seek, or blind man’s bluff?

Shall we look for them in the garden?

Out in the shed, or the garage, or in the attic?

Under the carpets, under the trendy oak floors?

Behind the doors? — they must be somewhere.

We will look for where they are hiding. Hidden

away from us, gone away from us, gone.

This is a place,

Where time becomes a word — why?

This is a place, where breath takes the form of a question.

How did this happen?

This is a place, where a last breath marks a person

passing.

Gone.

Where? There? Everywhere? Missing?

Gone?

©robcullen08012021

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unable to credit foto of the open market Pontypridd.
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unable to credit foto of the open market Pontypridd.

Pontypridd Town is a meeting place — it is also the place which all the characters in the poem are elderly residents, the place they grew up in, had fun, worked raised families and lived long lives.

The town is a meeting place, a meeting of three rivers and valleys where a large indoor market and open market have been established. The town is a bustling, busy, thriving, place of skullduggery and sharp deals; once a boom town, now a town that has seen hard times and looks a little down at heel. It could do with a little luck — my cheery elderly friends have seen it all — the ups and downs, a depression, a war — and came through it all with a cheerfulness that brings a smile when I think of them.

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with thanks to Rhondda Cynon Taf library archives.

Pontypridd is a place of Easter and Summer Fairs — Danter’s Fairs that plied all the valley towns. Fairs that are the remnants of the old festivals to mark the solstice and the Christian calendar — the older context lost in the newer religious puritan revival’s disdain for such activities and as a result we have lost so much. Loss again…

My friends talked a lot about Danter’s fairs, a meeting place for the young. The Fair still comes to Pontypridd, rides that reflect the horror liked by this generation bread and buttered on online gothic terror. It’s a young persons pleasure. But it always was.

Covid has heightened not just the deaths of the elderly, but the loss of knowledge and memories of their lives and experiences. Memories that are unrecorded. We are unable to hand them on.

Missing

Here. There. Everywhere. Gone.

©robcullen10012021

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foto©robcullen30012021.

NOT HERE ANYMORE NO MORE.

Rob CullenFeb 4 · 2 min read

Telephone call came at five,

To tell her he’d died

At four thirty,

Died in his sleep peacefully.

She listened in the darkness,

It was morning,

But it lightness wouldn’t come,

For four more hours.

She made a cup of tea,

Sat in the quiet of the kitchen,

Everything was quiet now,

So she made lists of who to call.

It was two hours before she would call

The three children,

Let them sleep in the quietness,

Let them lie like she used to.

She stopped herself from saying

“when he was alive”

Now she’d have to get used

To thinking of him — dead, not here.

Not here, lifeless, not here

Anymore, no more,

But he lived, he had a life,

I am his wife I am here.

He did good things, but he is not here.

No more, any more. No more.

Not here anymore, no more.

It will be light, it will be morning.

Written for my sister Maeve who is here.

Maeve who is always here.

When the Cadman’s arrived in Northern Ireland in the early 1960’s, the Roman Catholic population did not have political representation. They had the vote but the choice on offer to them was Protestant Unionist parties. The UK Labour Party was not allowed to set up its stall in Northern Ireland and Unionism was all powerful in the six counties. Roman Catholics were exposed to a hate environment extolled by Unionists. Housing conditions were poor, unemployment rife as was poor health.

Keith and his friend John Hume set up the SDLP along with other quiet men and women. They saw that political representation would lead to full emancipation for the Catholic population — Keith Cadman was one of those quiet men who worked behind the scenes, but whose quiet work in the end moved mountains. It should be remembered.

Without the SDLP and John Hume the Northern Ireland Peace Agreement wouldn’t have taken place.

We have a reason to be proud of quiet men.

We have a reason to be proud of the women who stood at their backs through it all.

©robcullen30012021.

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Lockdown Reflections on Grey

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foto©robcullen16012021.

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, while slow grey traffic passes.

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

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

They never looked at me, they never waved, or 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 twos,

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 fortnoight,

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 were 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 vacine be found for depression and mental health?

©robcullen16012021.

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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.

Bridging

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foto©robcullen13012021

“Our lives are but specks of sand — better to use the time we have usefully.”

In this time of fractures

Of the emergence

Of old hatreds

The telling of lies

When politicians, our leaders

Seem unable to refrain

From encouraging fear

We need to build bridges not walls.

Bridges aren’t just about getting somewhere

In this age of having to get somewhere

Bridges are about connections

About joining one side to another

To join the divides and separations

Bridges span different views

Bridges connect generations

We need to build bridges not walls.

Bridges make things come together

Make old and new things one

Bridges make life possible

Bridges span and connect

Bridges aren’t about divisions

Bridges join and mend

We need to build bridges not walls.

Bridging the gulf between us

Help us to speak to one another

Allow us to bring things in

Allow us to take things out

Allow us to meet and share

Allow us to see things anew

Bridges join and renew

We need to build bridges not walls.

To span divides, connect, renew

Bridges are life givers

So not let divides

Part us from life

Or keep us away from one another

Bridges give meaning not walls

So let’s build bridges together

We need to build bridges together not walls

We need to build bridges together not walls

We need to build bridges not walls.

….

©robcullen13012021

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foto©robcullen13012021

“Our lives are but specks of sand – better to use the time we have usefully- build bridges not walls.”

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.

In a time of contagion

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foto©robcullen012016

You cannot call my name.

We will remember for all time the summer of this year

when last Spring, woodlands and forests had a quietness

almost an expectation

as if the trees knew and were waiting.

I would not describe it as tenseness,

the quiet wasn’t peaceful either.

It was what I would describe as resignation

if I were to attach it to a humans form.

After the heavy rains of winter,

people described them as exceptional,

rains the like of which no one could remember.

No one had seen such rain who was still living.

Out on the openness of the mountains plateau.

It was different.

On the hill above the village,

water took the shape of fear.

Carried on the edge of the wind,

its swiftness gave no cause for concern,

gave no cause for the alarm to be raised,

or bells to be rung on the church belfries and spires.

The smell of death spread thinner than wisps

of smoke, through hard weather whitened grassland,

barely visible,

beyond the horizon, its source unseen, at first,

but what did that matter in any case,

it was what it did when it arrived,

for all to see,

that was what mattered.

Death came anyway.

It used a cipher to hide behind, another’s form,

another’s name, to confuse, to distract.

Tell me your name. It is useless to ask.

I have no name

I am nameless

I am as old as time.

©robcullen31122020

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“The hill of sorrow.” foto©robcullen31122020

Death comes easily. It is always there — always near, always close by waiting. In March 2020, I suffered heart failure and came close to death. I didn’t survive because of luck — although I was lucky. I lived because of the professionalism of medical staff in our local hospital’s Accident & Emergency Unit. I was discharged five days later after two operations and a defibrillator pacemaker. That wasn’t luck. I know that if I lived in another country without a National Health Service I would be dead — death would have had its way.

I listen to the news casts each day, hear the latest covid stats — the number of new cases and the number of dead. Occasionally I see photos of crowds of people celebrating, ignoring the risks and the consequences, and the following week the spike in the stats that follows as sure as night follows day. I muse on whether people place so little value on their lives that they are willing to place themselves at such great risk. It suggests to me a mass Russian roulette.

I avoid crowds or social events in which there will be a large gathering. I am an artist, writer, poet who enjoys my own company and isolation doesn’t weigh heavily on me. More importantly it gives me time. Time to write, time to read, time to play with pen and wash. And there is so much to see, feel, smell and breathe in. Every walk offers a richness of opportunity. I do not live in a town or a city but on the outskirts of a town in wooded countryside. On the last day of the year 2021 I think I am lucky.

©robcullen31122020

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