Her Pink Raincoat, His Brogues
No-one dresses for Starbucks anyway.
She wore, well-piqued by it,
a shiny pink raincoat. He wore his tweeds,
a knitted tie, his brogues, offset against
her crocodile-skin bag.
The first weekend, they walked three miles
along the coastal path. He brought two cans
of a light lager, she a survival kit
and the numbers of the emergency services.
He scrambled to a ledge some six feet down
to show her a martin’s nest
(leaving it undisturbed).
The concert was her idea,
Vivaldi, a string quartet. He quite enjoyed it,
took his shoes off in the second half,
finding that restful.
Why they should have separated,
she always wondered. (Friends’ prompting,
What IS she thinking of?) After that week apart,
she, waiting outside the film club’s theatre,
was so relieved to see him striding down,
in his Welsh rugby shirt and jeans.
The sometime train conductor Noel
lives now with wifely, pretty Lily
in Bella Vista, Merlin’s Lane.
Of a morning, he will sniff the air,
collect the milk bottles and the paper,
then scurry velvet-footed back
to his own home hearth.
four hours there, four back,
the passengers and paperbacks,
the buffet’s beers and coffees
and legs lurching to the feel of the journey,
fragments of talk and sentiment,
the smiles always flickering, flickering.
Now the chesty breathing (both of them),
the almost solid smell of love
on his own home hearth.
when he will, of a morning, sniff the air,
might he scent diesel and distances,
the traces of his passengers
(you got all sorts, the mavericks, the mysteries),
and the smiles always flickering, flickering?
Well-nurtured, neat, well-scrubbed,
Elizabeth trained for teaching,
came back neater than ever.
Her pupils ruled lines beneath their headings,
tidied desks, wrote careful lettering,
took the piss. Inspectors patronised her,
to Heads she was part of a steady body
of staffroom stodge. When boys farted,
Elizabeth flushed quite desperately, fretted deep.
When the smut and mutter started,
she wanted to defend her girls, went red,
blustered. Once, on a tearful afternoon,
farted herself. The boys, Apollos, Stud Men all,
derided. The girls, most of them, were coiled
in an adolescent spring. Their laughter twanged.
Helena, Wendy, Gail,
who later, in bungalows and flats around the town,
told their children of Miss Reed. Later again, Wendy,
three hundred miles, three decades and a half away,
told her grand-daughter of Elizabeth,
screaming once, in this boy’s face.
She was there, said Wendy. For us.
Robert Nisbet was for some years an associate lecturer in creative writing at Trinity College, Carmarthen. His poems have appeared in his Prolebooks pamphlet Merlin’s Lane and in magazines like Smiths Knoll, Other Poetry, The Frogmore Papers, The Interpreter’s House, Dream Catcher, The Journal, Scintilla, Poetry Wales and (in the USA) in Hobo Camp Review, The Camel Saloon and Main Street Rag. One of his short stories was featured in the recent Parthian anthology, Story II.