Bastard by Robert Nisbet

Bastard
Interviews at Oxford, 1959

The guide book phrase is dreaming spires, the facts
are pleasing too, the staircases and quads.
Train-loads of schoolboys shuffle in, disperse.
I’m bound for Jesus, for an interview.
Sounds pleasingly irreverent, that phrase:
“I’m bound for Jesus”. Then alas, ill-met,
here’s John the Baptist getting on the bus.

Who is this man, smile spread, grin grown so great?
He has the Bard’s Collected Works, and totes
this ammo to his holster arm, before
he fires in his first offence. Your school?

My glum, gruff Welsh response is slow:
It’s Milford Haven (‘Grammar School’ left out).
I do not ask his school. He tells me though.

His school spreads wide on England’s Southern coast.
‘Tis Beadles, Boodles? Rather good, he says.
Good little school. But so of course (he grins)
is Milford Haven. What a sizzling pratt.

And on we go. Next question. Do you ect?
Ecting?
In sooth. My mind describes new views
of some foul practice known to him alone,
of buggery in Boodles, beastly boys.
And then he clarifies: In our place
we did King Lear.
The monstrous grin now spreads
so far it seems to hinge half-off his head
(a large one) and he booms that he of course
was Edmund. Now, self-deprecating wit:
The Bastard Son of Gloucester. And I think,
Well yes. We read in Milford Haven too.

The bus conductor’s shout hails my release.
To Jesus. Ed’s for Queen’s. I leave him thus,
the Bastard Son of Boodles on the bus.

by Robert Nisbet, first published in Prole (Wales, 2010)

Editor’s Note: The irreverent tone of this poem doesn’t quite disguise the sense of insecurity that pervades both the speaker and his nemesis, coloring their narrative with tension many readers will understand.

Poet’s Note: Form: blank verse with a concluding heroic couplet, in the manner of a Shakespeare scene.

From the archives – Simple by Robert Nisbet

Simple

Imagine this. Brown-panelled surgery.
You’re simply told of what you’ve hoped so long:
You’re clear. Just that. You’re clear, you’re bloody clear.
You hear your heart’s wild shout. Huge days stack up.

You’ll walk into the morning (will you not?)
and every cornice, pavement, starling, cloud,
each doorway, primrose, coffee cup and street,
that man’s inconsequential smile, your heart,
the whole vast, lovely, all-but-shapeless heap,
will seem to say, its breath quite still, You’re clear.
How very, very beautiful is life.

Now we, my friend, my compeer, we’ve not known
that rasping clash with our mortality.
For me, for you, might days still be like that?
Why can’t you, can’t we, every trembling day,
gaze on that drift of surely random cloud,
that coffee cup, the starling’s glossed black,
the stranger’s sudden smile (that most of all),
the whole big, deep shenanigans of hope,
and in the warm heart’s certain core, be glad?

from Autumn Sky Poetry DAILY, October 20, 2016 — by Robert Nisbet

Photograph by Christine Klocek-Lim

Simple by Robert Nisbet

Simple

Imagine this. Brown-panelled surgery.
You’re simply told of what you’ve hoped so long:
You’re clear. Just that. You’re clear, you’re bloody clear.
You hear your heart’s wild shout. Huge days stack up.

You’ll walk into the morning (will you not?)
and every cornice, pavement, starling, cloud,
each doorway, primrose, coffee cup and street,
that man’s inconsequential smile, your heart,
the whole vast, lovely, all-but-shapeless heap,
will seem to say, its breath quite still, You’re clear.
How very, very beautiful is life.

Now we, my friend, my compeer, we’ve not known
that rasping clash with our mortality.
For me, for you, might days still be like that?
Why can’t you, can’t we, every trembling day,
gaze on that drift of surely random cloud,
that coffee cup, the starling’s glossed black,
the stranger’s sudden smile (that most of all),
the whole big, deep shenanigans of hope,
and in the warm heart’s certain core, be glad?

by Robert Nisbet

Editor’s Note: This poem is anything but simple. The blank verse slips into the reader’s mind, deceptively easy, but the true heart of the lines is in the narrator’s questions.