Three Poems by Robert Nisbet

Painting on the Pembrokeshire Coast

He would paint, that day. They would go
to the coastal path above Porthgain
and he would catch the ambience. She’d go too,
because she loved him, to loaf, be there.

She didn’t paint herself. She was
a school assistant, did odd office work.
She baked, loved tapestry. And they sat quietly
through one of June’s most glorious mornings,
as his watercolours swished and settled.

During those hours she met several dogs,
an Airedale, Labs and Collies, quivering dogs,
inquisitive, pulling on leads, hauled back.

She was passed by the odd, the cool, the quaint,
and by couples who so clearly had retired well
(should she rise to congratulate them?),
talking of cathedrals, naves and parking fees.

The morning’s one young couple were shimmering
with expectation, rushing and radiant. Oh boy.
Then one man, steeple-tall, Scots maybe, furtive,
seemed to be hunting for a place to pee.

One clergyman, shrill-voiced, dog collar in June,
and his much, much shorter wife who had
to scramble to keep up. The sports, the hustlers,
the strollers and the jovial. And four Americans,
adjectival, happy people, awesome, swell.

So, as he caught the place in paint, she mooched.

A Family Farm: October, 1966

The day his sister started university,
he went with his father to the mart:

to the rattle of the pens and auctions,
to the traffic in the beasts, so solid
and so barrel-sided that their very bulk
seemed a permanence in itself.
There was talk of subsidies and quotas,
but there were the busy pubs, the crack,
the cow dung tramped into the streets,
the little town pulsating with the mart.

Just then it seemed a very certain world.


The girls we knew and hankered for
glittered across a diadem of promise.
They flickered, danced as in some bioscope,
or an early movie, stilted in prettiness,
brilliant and curious and not quite real.

First dates were clumsy, puzzled us,
for suddenly the girls seemed stolid,
lumbered with younger brothers
back at home, family grouch.
(The acne, the other stuff, I realised later,
wasn’t mentioned). We heard of hopes,
jealousies, the occasional pig of a teacher
for light relief. Baggage.

So on later dates and in later years
we had to search behind the brilliance,
inward to the pulse, needing to learn
a grace and charity towards the other,
when the baggage gets heavy, as it often does.


Robert Nisbet is a Welsh poet whose work has been published in roughly equal measures in Britain and the USA, in the latter case quite regularly in San Pedro River Review, Red River Review and Panoply, which made him one of its Editor’s Choice Featured Poets in their Fall 2017 issue.

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