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…


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



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…


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…


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…

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.


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


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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