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 too,
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 80’s, early nineties…
The shirt cut off me with apologies,
the white t shirt underneath cut away too.
A meagre sacrifice to pay to save my life,
“Heart in TV” I thought they said,
Looks of disbelief as one said,
a heartbeat of two hundred and fifty seven
I listened as they talked together,
five men, and a female doctor,
in their greens and reds standing over me.
I thought I heard them say again,
“hearts in TV”,
Down their mobiles,
the thought amused me,
my heart is on TV,
but not for long this was an emergency.
She promised to pay a penny for each snail
not half expecting the bucketful
quickly brought back for her experiments
collected with a small boys enthusiasm
You could say our mother was not best pleased
to find the captives roaming in the night
leaving silver trails laced meanderings
on ceilings and bathroom walls
My sister showed me how to
stroke away cuckoo spit
with a blade of grass
to slowly delicately reveal
the bright green aphid
exposed in its lathering
spurtled white froth
she placed buttercups under my chin
to see whether the glow showed
Storm Ciaron lashed in the week before last.
Bad enough you’d say, well anyone would say that
standing out in the cold and rain as it comes falling in,
no asking permissions, not so much as a second glance,
the river danced its fandango, raging through the culvert,
a concrete channel that’s supposed to keep it at bay,
built to get it away, to down there, anywhere, but not here.
And so we turned our back on the river and forgot,
the old tyrant that once ruled the valley when winter came
I think calling a…
On the ferry,
I liked sitting
on the edge,
through dead water*.
I was returning
to a place
and was not
I had never
on the ferry,
The River Suirs’
where it meets
In the morning,
to the quay,
where he’d be waiting,
with the brake
a pair in hand.
Looking down through dead water.
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…
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,
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.