foto©robcullen16012016.

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…


Protesting Miners ©by kind permission of Rhondda Cynon Taf Library Archives.

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.


foto©robcullen19032021

Cuckoo spit on buttercups

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

I…


foto©robcullen3.12.2020.

Turning our backs on the river

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…


Please add me Muhammad - so many books that have inspired me over the years.


foto©robcullen3.12.2020.

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


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

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…


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…

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.

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