Nell – Robert Nisbet


Nell Gwyn sold oranges, loved a King.
And Nellie Forbush (South Pacific,
remember?) was a nurse, a Forces’
sweetheart, married a landowner
(despite I’m Gonna Wash That Man
Right Outa My Hair). But our Nell lives
in a green and nearly glade-like place,
where three Welsh counties coalesce.
Lives alone (the past being the past)
in an over-big and draughty house.
Sells drapery at various markets,
Cardigan, Carmarthen, one Sunday
in two at Carew. Drinks lager once a week,
quiz league, White Lion. Washes
the kit for the football team (a nephew
plays). Entertains to barley wine in that
big lone house, friends and riff raff,
a host of cousins with hard luck stories,
saints and sinners, and a kindly man
with a share in two racehorses. She has
an acre of grassland, nearly woodland.
On the Sundays she doesn’t do Carew she
gardens. She grows no veg, no flower beds,
it’s more that she cuts back, hacks down,
keeps at bay encroaching wilderness,
finding in that a lonely satisfaction.


Published in ‘Planet’, 204 (November 2011) and again in the author’s pamphlet, Merlin’s Lane (Prolebooks, 2011).

Robert Nisbet, from Pembrokeshire, taught English in grammar and comprehensive schools and later taught creative writing at Trinity College, Carmarthen. He has had hundreds of poems published in Britain, dozens in the USA and a couple in India.


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