The sometime train conductor Noel
lives now with wifely, pretty Lily
in Bella Vista, Merlin’s Lane.
Of a morning, he will sniff the air,
collect the milk bottles and the paper,
then scurry velvet-footed back
to his own home hearth.
four hours there, four back,
the passengers and paperbacks,
the buffet’s beers and coffees
and legs lurching to the feel of the journey,
fragments of talk and sentiment,
the smiles always flickering, flickering.
Now the chesty breathing (both of them),
the almost solid smell of love
on his own home hearth.
when he will, of a morning, sniff the air,
might he scent diesel and distances,
the traces of his passengers
(you got all sorts, the mavericks, the mysteries),
and the smiles always flickering, flickering?
*First published in Clear Poetry (2014)
Robert Nisbet is a Welsh poet whose work has been published widely in Britain and the USA and who was a Pushcart Prize nominee in 2019.