Uncertain times by Rob Cullen

Written in 1982 on occasion of the miners’ strike.

I see only forgotten men
Living in places
With once famous names.
I hear only words
Of tales and deeds
Of days of men and women
Long since forgotten
Long since dead.

And in these times of uncertainty
People live surrounded
By purposeless decline
A landscape of waste
And those twisted lines
Of once white shone steel
Polished by the unceasing grind
Of the turning wheel
Now lie hidden by elder.
And gathering the dirt brown stain
Of rust and disuse
Map out the death struggle
Of this dark place
And in this uncertainty people live.

Writhing in its decay
Its history ensnares
the withering and hopeless present.
But its people refuse to cry out.
Anger has been replaced
By that silence of regret
That pitiless lament
Of resignation and acceptance.
Some say it is our age
As if we were born in other times
And others days
Or as if this turmoil
And unceasing uncertainty
Was not of our own making.

It has taken one hundred years
To silence and to forget
And to carve away with such precision.
One hundred long hard years
To isolate those memories
To purge our dreams
And cut with all the accuracy
Of liquid golden steel
The misery of generations
The torments of our people
Of the years of our childhood
And before.
We can do nothing
We can say nothing
We are not listened to.

This is the song of our people
We suffer we suffer
We have cried too much
We have cried too long
And we have become lost.
But do not stir us
For we are dark dogs
We are shadow dogs
We sleep in motionless terror.
Do not speak to our hearts
Of indignities of suffering.
Do not kindle our hatred.
Do not evoke words to spur
Our slumbering emotions.
We sleep we sleep.

In Silence

That strange silence
When did it first occur?
Were there no witnesses?
Did no one see its coming?
Had it been something gradual?
Something that had begun
Without our knowing.
Or with that abruptness
That quickness of the blade
That cuts and severs
And life without knowing
Without recognising its own going
Seeps silently away.

That strange silence
When did it first occur?
Were our eyes turned away?
Our intelligence caught
By other curious happenings.
Was it that? Simply
A distraction of sorts.
Or was it something
That we secretly welcomed?
And now if there are regrets
It’s too late, much too late.
All that has been is no longer
All that may have been
Is now silent and forgotten.

Who will remember?
Or will it become
A few pages here and there
Of names and muttered words?
Some faint remembrances?
That strange vision
Of people blackened
Standing in cobbled streets
Faces turned towards camera
Their eyes watching
Looking but seeing nothing.
And we see nothing of them.
Their world our past
A fleeting glance caught
On the papers gloss
And in this hour I ask
Is that all that remains?
That strange silence.

Of words and truth.

Like grasses bundled
And withered in storm
We are blown helplessly
And not a word is spoken.
Who sings the authentic song?
Who speaks the words of truth?
Who stands for me and mine?
Who looks at what we see?
Who hears what we hear?
Who breathes the air we breathe?
Who sees what is right and wrong?
Who speaks for me and mine?
Who sings the authentic song?
Where are our heroes and poets now?

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