Robert Nisbet: “Stranger”

Her seat was diagonally opposite mine
the whole of the journey to Paddington.
Village people, city people, families,
came and went. She and I were constants.
I’d fetch my coffees from the buffet. She
had her own wholegrain, had beetroot juice.
I read my various papers, magazines,
and she her Germaine Greer in paperback.
She had the habit, an unsettling one,
of flickering her hand across her face.
A long brown strand of hair would fall,
regularly, across her forehead.
From Paddington, we were quickly swallowed
by London and the Underground, although
I did, for just one moment, wonder
if that was her down-carriage. 
It was her though certainly, waiting
in reception, in the news and media office.
Still that hand shadowing its uncertainty
across the tense white face.
Next day, I bought the paper, naturally,
to see my piece. There were also photos
of two different women, named. Either
might well have been my stranger.
One was a woman due to donate a kidney
to a very sick sister. Another an emerging
political recruit, favoured in the hierarchy,
but now accused of office bullying.
Haunted sometimes by that shimmering hand,
the manifest unease, I’ve often hoped
my stranger was the donor woman.
But I honestly cannot be sure.


Robert Nisbet is a Welsh poet who has been published widely in Britain and in the USA, where he was a Pushcart Prize nominee in 2020.

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