Robert Nisbet: “Eighteen”


Ruth was eighteen, in Cardiff now and struggling.
She’s just homesick, they all said. She’s a farm girl.
She’ll settle down.

She did things by the book. Made friends. Got out.
That evening, she’d been out with a boy,
stood waiting for a bus back to the college,
when a flashing ambulance howled through,
its aural ricochet cannoning
between the banked and brilliant shopfronts.
She clutched at the bus stop’s stanchion,
and for several seconds, gazed at the abyss.  

There’d been times like that before, Christmas,
back in the village, with another boy, watching
the Magical Mystery Tour, the psychedelic stuff.
He’d felt her sweating, for a few seconds hoped
it was desire, then realised, checked himself,
walked her home later down the quiet lane.

Drugs, said her Uncle Ivor and the minister.
I really doubt that, said her mother,
and the teacher in Ruth’s junior school.
The child has always had imagination–
sometimes some awful fears.

Howbeit. The ambulance siren
and the strawberry fields, the panics
and the demons, are history now.
She got through much of it in time,
but would never disregard, not even now,
the pit beneath our daily pavements.

Robert Nisbet is a Welsh poet whose work has appeared widely in Britain where he was shortlisted for the Wordsworth Trust Prize in 2017 and in the USA where he has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize (twice) and a Best of the Net award.

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