“The College Boys” by Robert Nisbet

We courted manhood, ten years on
from urchinhood, and that wide
green playing field sloping down
from Barn Street Primary for Boys.
We wore cords now, sometimes smoked pipes,
graced cafés with our suave mid-
morning selves. The future, like a
ripening nut, was still to be, to be.
But progress, high degree, were all.
My stories, when I talked of them,
lay in a pool of puzzlement.
And then, years on, my stories drew
first breath. Now, these last few
months, I’ve met two of those boys,
who’ve really had (and I’m glad for them,
glad for them) success and high degree.
But my stories they knew too (mothers

and sisters had sent them on, of course).
They talked of them with affection,
with the pleasure people seem to feel
when a boyhood friend has cheeked
the beak, has cracked a conker on
the swot’s knuckles, in some way kept
the faith, the faith of urchinhood
remembered – and that wide green field



Robert Nisbet is a Welsh poet who once read for an American President, when ex-President and poet Jimmy Carter was guest of honour at the opening of the Dylan Thomas Centre in Swansea in 1995. Nisbet is a Pushcart Prize nominee for “Cultivation” (Sparks of Calliope, 2019).

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