They left school at four o’clock,
when they were eight, nine, ten,
their walk home along the Avenue
taking them from conkers’ fall
to the days of frosted branches
to the buds and the starting grass.
There were also fights and football.
Twelve and fourteen, secondary school,
on the four o’clock bus they learned
of hierarchy, slow progress over years
to the back seat’s eminence.
First job, those digs, and each Sunday
he took the four o’clock train back.
Homesick, he was let in by his landlady
for supper and radio. To this day,
his deepest sense of melancholy
lingers around those wafting voices.
Sing Something Simple, toast,
sardines, weak tea.
In the Cardiff branch, the heyday times,
four o’clock, quick canteen tea break,
time to chat the ladies from accounts,
which was when he met both wives.
Now he’s eighty-odd, with something like
thirty thousand four o’clocks
under his belt. He’s punctilious now,
so it’s almost exactly four each day
when he strides the half-street up
to the Widow Morgan’s. She and he
will walk her dogs around the field
(the conkers, frost and buds again),
go back for tea, as evening gathers,
she in winter augmenting the brew
with a tiny whisky nip.
Robert Nisbet writes on Sunday mornings in a large-windowed room looking out from West Wales towards the Irish Sea. His poems are published in roughly equal measures in Britain and the USA.