Robert Nisbet, “Bird Life”

Robert Nisbet is a Welsh poet whose work has appeared widely in Britain and the USA. He won the Prole Pamphlet Competition in 2017 with Robeson, Fitzgerald and Other Heroes. In the USA he has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize four times in the last three years.

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Bird Life

Back there, back then, we had robins
and blackbirds, red chests, orange beaks,
and that spring song rich as morning.
(Likewise, starlings, tits and jackdaws.)
We were country cousins, had
the pop lorry Tuesdays, fish and chips,
with bread and butter and a cup of tea.
The locals, darts and dominoes.

Two decades later, cities, studios, offices.
Casinos, cinemas’ new multi-screens,
the canapé and cappuccino eighties.
Our bird life now was city-life exotics,
the workplace nightingales, the peacocks,
Paradise birds, persuasive, glistening,
the promises, the sheen of grins.
(The odd black mamba in the undergrowth.)

But hark back. Listen again in memory,
in the shops and the pubs. Wasn’t there then
the odd sweet-talker nightingale? Promises
fanned out like a pack of cards?

And back there in the city’s forest,
there was always the odd voice of calm,
the cheering song of an office blackbird
and now and again a robin, standing quietly by.


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