Robert Nisbet – three poems

The Cusp

I am 18. It is 1963.
Soon I shall sing flowers and San Fran,
wear a Sergeant Pepper jacket,
declare / decree / delight in the fact
that All you need is love.

And yet, history’s squirrel, I shall hoard
the nutshell sights and sounds and smells
of coal fires in cold winters,

of boys released from Latin lessons
to a weekend splurge of leaf and light
in childhood’s fields and hedges,

of walking down ashcan lanes
to cafés and the record shop,

of the men who built sheds and lofts,
knew about football, bowled leg-spin
down the street’s front paths

with a tennis ball and lots of tweak,
said little about the war.


Back Home

She’d been dumped.
There was anxiety to help her,
Violet simpering in the corner shop,
the sonorous elders / olders,
the odd crass blast, The clock is ticking, Helen,

and mantras, platitudes, soliloquies.
So it could hover, the three-year-only marriage,
like an albatross, with misty thoughts
of female cuckoldry.

Work was best, for a while,
the clacketing of the farm shop’s till,
the shoppers, girls from the peninsula,
gracious in ignorance.
Even the greasy charmers.
Nice to be called My dear from time to time.
(Attention short of lechery was fine).

And shop staff, Gloria was good,
a bangle-jangling girl, calling her,
My sweet, my lamb.

Some comfort, much comfort.
Then, closing the shop at five, November,
home, the family waiting.


The Old Library
The County Library, Haverfordwest c 1960

As you went in, on the stone staircase,
there was a snake in a jar, a mean-looking sample
of the taxidermist’s art. Strange fish and fowl
thronged the path to the librarian’s eyrie.

Within, Miss Davies and the rest of them
stamped books, slipped cards into dockets.
As children, we took out those ink-scented yarns,
pottering in shards of sunlight from high windows.

And, as students, in the vac, Emlyn was there,
and John, at folding desks, a little wonky,
squeezed in at the end of aisles,
their essays and ambitions under way.

The scholarship boys. The library
History’s tread.


Robert Nisbet is a Welsh poet who has over 200 publications in Britain and around 50 in the USA. His one chapbook is Merlin’s Lane (Prolebooks, 2011).

This is Robert’s fifth appearance on Clear Poetry – you can read his other contributions here.

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